Dave Dar ft. Mista Sinista – “New York Is Red Hot!” (@DaveDar / 2018)
Funky beats and slick wordplay from the Rotten Apple rhymer’s 2017 release “The Star Seed EP: Secure The Pure”.
Dave Dar ft. Mista Sinista – “New York Is Red Hot!” (@DaveDar / 2018)
Funky beats and slick wordplay from the Rotten Apple rhymer’s 2017 release “The Star Seed EP: Secure The Pure”.
Dave Dar ft. Milano Constantine, Rasheed Chappell & Flo Fader – “Let It Off” (@DaveDar / 2017)
NY representative Dar teams-up with two of the game’s nicest emcees for this track off his new release “The Star Seed EP: Secure The Pure”.
AG & John Robinson ft. Blu & Dave Dar – “Penelope” (@RedApples45 / 2017)
Smooth, jazz-influenced title track from the NY duo’s new Ray West-produced collabo EP.
Ray West & Dave Dar – “We Prevail” (@RedApples45 / 2017)
Mellow, heartfelt vibes from the NY-based duo’s EP “Sun Don’t Chill”.
Ray West & Dave Dar ft. AG – “The Art Of Diggin'” (@RedApples45 / 2017)
NYC’s Ray West and Dave Dar are joined by D.I.T.C.’s AG to demonstrate why buying old records is a habit on this mellow cut from their recent EP “The Sun Don’t Chill”.
Fresh produce from the Bronx-based RedApples45 imprint featuring Percee P, Prince Po and AG.
Dave Dar – “I Am” (@DaveDar / 2016)
Positive vibrations from the NY resident’s “Star Seed” album.
Dave Dar – “Black.White.Brown” (@DaveDar / 2015)
The veteran NY producer-on-the-mic delivers thoughtful wordplay over crisp beats from his forthcoming solo EP.
Dave Dar – “Me And Mine” (@RedApples45 / 2015)
Mellow Ray West-produced minimalism from the LUV NY camp.
SilentSomeone ft. Dave Dar – “El Greco” (@SilentSomeone / 2014)
Taken from the Bronx producer’s album “I Have Company” which also features El Da Sensei, John Robinson, Sadat X and more.
LUV NY ft. Dave Dar & L-Fudge – “Hitman” (@RedApples45 / 2014)
Taken from the forthcoming Ray West-produced project “The Snake Tape”
LUV NY – “Snake Charmer” (@RedApples45 / 2014)
New visuals for this Ray West-produced track off the 2012 LUV NY album which will also be included as part of the limited-edition cassette EP “The Snake Tape”.
Bronx-based studio maestro Ray West is what you would call a real music man. A producer’s producer. Someone who is totally invested in their craft and fully immersed in their love of Hip-Hop, yet with a genuine appreciation for the musical genres that were used as the sonic building blocks of the culture.
First introduced to most via the release of 2010’s “Everything’s Berri” album with Diggin’ In The Crates legend AG, it was last year’s “LUV NY” project with the likes of Kool Keith and Roc Marciano which fully caught people’s attention, allowing Ray to showcase his unique, melodic lo-fi style of production to a wider audience.
Having remained busy throughout 2013 working with the likes of Left Coast artist Blu and dropping another volume of his “Pianos In The Projects” vinyl series, West is looking to kick-start the new year with the release of “Ray’s Cafe”, a collaborative project with New York mic icon OC that further builds on the BX producer’s reputation for challenging himself and taking his music in new directions.
If you need to get familiar with Ray West’s history then check the interview we did last year here – but otherwise, read on as the man behind the boards discusses the success of the “LUV NY” album, working with OC and his mission to always be original.
Overall, were you pleased with the response the LUV NY album received last year?
“I was real happy, man. I mean, I didn’t expect that album to get the attention it did at all. A lot of my stuff goes under the radar because of how we market the music on Red Apples. We don’t do big videos, we’re not up on YouTube all the time, we just try to put out quality and let the music speak for itself. So the LUV NY album was bigger that I expected it to be. I mean, there are always people who have negative comments, but for the most part the album was received very well. But, I also think there was a perfect storm that occurred around the album at the time we put it out. I mean, Roc Marciano was putting out his “Reloaded” album, Kool Keith dropped “Love And Danger” around that time, OC had the “Trophies” album with Apollo Brown still working for him. AG was promoting the “Mugshot Music” project and Kurious had just come off of the Bamboo Bros album. So “LUV NY” really benefited from what everyone else had already been working on. What was ill for me was that I’d also had some involvement in most of those other projects behind the scenes, whether it was having a production credit on Marc’s “Reloaded” or having conversations with OC and AG about their projects whilst they were working on them. So there was just a lot of activity among all the artists who were involved in “LUV NY” that I think really contributed towards the success of the album”
Plus, the LUV NY album sounded completely different to what any of the artists involved were doing on their own projects…
“Absolutely. That was something I was definitely conscious of because, given that all those artists are my friends and we’re around each other all the time, sometimes it can feel like you’re doing the same thing over because you treat their s**t like yours, and they treat your s**t like their own. So it’s easy to kind of get blinded by what everyone is doing and for one project to merge into another. But then when the LUV NY album was out there, I was listening to it alongside all those other albums and it hit me like, ‘This is really different.’ It just had a really unique feeling to it and that’s exactly what I was hoping for. With Red Apples as a label, I try to keep things based around concepts so each release can stand on its own. Like, all the “Pianos In The Projects” records fall under the same theme, and LUV NY is like the same thing. I mean, I feel like we could have any artist from New York on a LUV NY project and it would still work. The original idea behind LUV NY wasn’t so much about it being a super-group like it was picked up on in the media, it was more about it being an idea and a concept that could change and evolve moving forward.”
On the subject of concepts, you have the new project with OC coming out in January entitled “Ray’s Cafe”. What’s the idea behind the release and how did you come up with that particular theme?
“That “Ray’s Cafe” title track that we put out online recently is actually the first song that me and OC ever made together, which was even before the LUV NY project. It was his first time being at my home studio in the basement. He came over, we hung out upstairs, had dinner with my family, then he came downstairs and that was his first time seeing the basement (laughs). Now, I’ve been down there for about the last twenty years, so it’s full of records, memorabilia and equipment. There’s definitely a lot of history down there and it has a certain feel to it. That first time OC came down there he made a joke about it being like Ray’s Cafe because he’d come and ate with the family and then came down to the basement with the walls all covered in graffiti with multiple rooms full of records. So we recorded what became the track “Ray’s Cafe” and I just thought that was a really great idea for a project. It just gave me the idea to do a bunch of joints that all had that same feel to them and we came up with the concept of us being in this old 70s-style jazz club. So we started working, getting together once a week, and boom! It was during those same sessions that we actually got some other joints that ended up on “LUV NY”, like “Legacy” and the “Acid” joint. They were both recorded during the “Ray’s Cafe” sessions and were beats that O was really feeling. I mean, the “Oasis” album that OC and AG did together had just dropped around the same time we started recording, so that’s how long we’ve been working on this “Ray’s Cafe” project.” But all of the production for the album was done with the jazz cafe concept in mind and OC really put his heart into it as well. The whole process was just amazing.”
So you were looking to create a very specific sound with your production for the project?
“Once the idea was clear in my head, I had different beats that were already in my stash that I thought would fit the concept, so I let OC hear those. Then I was also working on beats that were in tune with the foundation of the project that had been created already. I was going to certain types of records for samples that I knew would match the cocktail lounge vibe that we were aiming for.”
Did the whole old-school jazz concept behind “Ray’s Cafe” also have an impact on what OC was bringing to the table in terms of his rhymes?
“Absolutely. O was always doing the songs right there in the basement. He never came to the house with pre-written rhymes except for “Legacy” which was the only track that was done like that. Every song for “Ray’s Cafe”, O would come over, we’d listen to the tracks we’d recorded already, we’d listen to some beats that I had in mind, then whatever beat OC wanted he’d sit there, write the rhyme and then we’d record it. Every song was done that way. I mean, we weren’t documenting it along the way, we weren’t taking pictures, we weren’t shooting videos, there wasn’t a hundred people over while we were recording, it was really just a private thing with me and OC just doing it for the love of the music. I mean, I don’t want to speak for O, but I really think he enjoyed that part of the process, coming over and not knowing exactly what we were going to do. We didn’t sit down and say that we needed songs about certain topics, O was able to write exactly what he wanted once he’d heard a beat that he liked. O could have done anything on the project and I think that sense of freedom brings out a really different creative energy. I really love the music we made together.”
The fact that OC was happy to work in such a spontaneous manner also says a lot about how comfortable he was with you as a producer and your creative process…
“It’s humbling, man. I mean OC is one of the greatest to ever do this. It’s just crazy to me and I appreciate the fact that I’ve been able to share the experience of working on this project with him. I mean, O also gave me ideas about how he wanted certain tracks to feel, like he’d pull out a song by a group like Heatwave which would then give me ideas about the type of samples to use. So we were really building the whole thing together and just helping each other out throughout the creative process. It wasn’t like we were just sat there sampling Blue Note records, there was all kinds of s**t going on (laughs). I mean, I’m a sample-based producer. I can create from scratch, but my whole process starts with vinyl. I’m really just a deejay with a sampler (laughs). I mean, I’ve gone further than just using a sampler in my music, but I’m definitely a deejay first and everything else comes from that. The process of making music for me started from records. That’s the soul in everything I do.”
The cover art for “Ray’s Cafe” states ‘Dedicated To The Preservation Of Jazz, Soul And Blues’. For me, Hip-Hop has always added to that preservation of other musical genres through sampling, with heads finding out where certain samples came from and then checking those original artists and being able to join the dots between the new and the old. Do you feel the connection to that musical foundation has been lost in Hip-Hop in recent times?
“Y’know, it’s deep what you’re saying and I guess that’s just like my life theory as well. I’m always preserving and sharing and that’s always been a part of Hip-Hop culture in our era, plus before us and a little after us as well. It was all about preserving the culture and sharing with others within the culture, whether that was about hearing some new s**t that you wanted everyone else to hear or finding some old Bambaataa flyer and putting it in some plastic to keep it safe. Nowadays, it seems that people aren’t doing that so much for some reason. But I don’t make my records with any kind of malice about that behind them, I’m kinda in my own world. I’m in my own world where I’m kinda like, this is what I do, if you’re not doing it like this that’s okay, but we’re about preserving the culture through making good music and contributing to the culture. I mean, the music that we make doesn’t always have to be talking about preserving the culture, it just has to contain that feeling that lets you know that’s what we’re about. I don’t want the music on Red Apples to be talking about saving Hip-Hop in every song, I just want our music to be considered good Hip-Hop.”
When we did our interview last year, you spoke about how your 2010 “Everything’s Berri” project with AG confused a lot of people due to your minimalist production style. After the success of “LUV NY” do you think people understand now where you’re coming from musically?
“I think so, bro. Whether people like it or not, I think they do at least know where I’m coming from now. They’ve got it now. I mean, it is what it is. I’m happy to be original in what I’m doing and to know that people know that what I’m doing is going to be a little different to everything else they’re hearing. If you don’t like that kind of different stuff then you don’t have to listen to it, it’s okay. I know I have a certain sort of niche that not everyone’s going to feel and I’m comfortable with that, y’know. I’ve just always wanted to be myself with my music and that’s something I’m only going to do more moving forward. I think it works because there’s a lot of detail in the music and to an introspective listener I think they can really understand where I’m coming from. I try to make music that’s created by using a different palette. It’s crazy though, because since the “LUV NY” project I’ve been getting a lot of emails and messages on Facebook from people who have gone back to listen to “Everything’s Berri” or who’re asking where they can get it from, but we don’t have many copies left (laughs).”
You mentioned listeners being introspective, does that also tie-in with how you view yourself as you always seem happy to take a very low-key approach to promoting your music etc. You’re not on Twitter everyday shouting about your own material…
“That’s totally where I’m at both as far as social media is concerned and also in real life. I’m a family guy with a wife and a son who just stays on the low. I don’t go out to deejay, I don’t really go to shows, I don’t do none of that stuff (laughs). I just wanna be in my basement, make music, share it with the world and then chill with my family and just have a peaceful life. I mean, I know I have to use social media to make sure people know the music is out there, but I try to keep it light and have fun with it. To be honest, I feel a little guilty when I’m posting my own stuff because I don’t want to blow-up people’s timelines, but I do have to do it a little bit (laughs). I just try to stay away from all the nonsense on there. It’s just crazy, man.”
In terms of other producers, who’s out right now that really inspires you to take it to that next level when you get in the studio?
“I have to say Madlib, for sure. I really respect the experimental styles that he comes with. I listen to Blu and think that’s he’s got a really nice raw sound. Ka as well and also Roc Marciano. Those are two brothers that are really making stuff that I love. Any new Dilla stuff that gets released I always try to check. Of course, the times that I get around Showbiz and he plays me some beats, I’m always like ‘Damn!’ His samples are always crazy and his drums are always knockin’. That brother has been blessed with a talent to just be able to create the perfect drums, man.”
I could definitely see you creating something special with Ka if you were ever to work together on a project as you both have that dope, stripped-down style to your production but you each have your own musical vibe…
“I would love to work with Ka, I really would. But as Roc Marc always says to me, Ka is like a Rakim as far as him being someone that is like a secret weapon, just sat in his lab working on his stuff, not really being seen by that many people (laughs). You don’t see Ka on features or doing a lot of stuff outside of his own material. But if the stars ever aligned I would love to do a couple of songs or a small project with Ka. He really does write profound, poetic stuff. I mean, I was lucky that he spat on “Nine Spray” off of Roc Marc’s “Reloaded” project because I produced that beat. But it would be dope to do more work with him because he’s a good dude and he’s doing his own thing and I respect it. That’s why I mentioned him when you asked about people making beats because you can tell from listening to his music that he really cares about what he does and is also very original. But Ka knows that I want do more music with him, he knows (laughs).”
What’s the status of the album you’ve been working on with John Robinson?
“We’ve got a full LP done with John Robinson and AG which is really crazy. John used a lot of his resources to get a bunch of jazz players to come through and play some horns, we had people coming through to sing and we were just able to incorporate a bunch of elements that we don’t usually have. So that really made it special. But then I also have another project with just me and John Robinson which is actually going to come out first. I did all the beats on the SP-12 and it’s kinda dedicated to the SP in a way. The project is called “Samples & Percussion” and we’ve got J-Zone on there doing the intro, then there’s about four vocal tracks with John and a couple of instrumentals. That came out really dope and we’re hoping to put that out in the summer next year. John Robinson is such an incredibly talented guy and he really gets what I’m trying to do with the Red Apples label. So I’ve got the “Ray’s Cafe” project coming out in January, then we have the LUV NY cassette project coming in March, “Samples & Percussion” will drop in the summer and then in the fall of next year I’m hoping we’ll be able to drop the John Robinson / AG album. So I’m really looking to keep some sort of consistency for the next year.”
Is the forthcoming LUV NY project a cassette-only re-release of the album?
“So the forthcoming LUV NY release has Lord Tariq on it, El-Fudge, Kurious, Kool Keith, AG and Dave Dar, plus a couple of remixes from people like King Of Chill on the B-side. It’s like an EP, so on the A-side there’s new material and then on the B-side you have remixes. That’s what I meant earlier when I talked about LUV NY being like a theme that can be used to incorporate different artists. This next one is actually a little harder in terms of how it sounds and also has a little Latin vibe to it because of Fudge, Kurious and Dave Dar and the concepts behind their songs. Then Tariq is on there and of course he brings a certain amount of mystique to anything he does. But it all came together really well.”
So with all this new music planned for 2014, is it possible we might see a Red Apples or LUV NY tour in 2014?
“There were plans for us to tour but it never worked out. Considering how many people were on that LUV NY project there were a lot of different schedules to work around and we decided that we just couldn’t do it without certain people being involved. So I was trying to work something out that just never came together. But again, I’m not big on being away from my family so it has to be the right situation. I would love to come out there if the situation was right, but travelling isn’t a part of the game that I get really excited about. I’m addicted to the studio and my wife’s chocolate chip cookies too much, y’know (laughs).”
Follow Ray West on Twitter – @RedApples45
“Ray’s Cafe” Album Trailer
$amhill – “Changed Man” (@MoeMiller96 / 2013)
The Bronx emcee drops some New York straight talk on this Dave Dar-produced track from his EP “The Preface”.
Trailer for the new “Berrii Lipstick” EP from Bronx-bred producer Ray West featuring Blu, O.C., A.G. and Dave Dar.
Third trailer for the new “LUV NY” album from Bronx producer Ray West with New York residents A.G., O.C., Kool Keith, Roc Marciano, Kurious and Dave Dar.
Dave Dar – “Last Night Finesse” (Ascetic Music / 2012)
Short track from the Ray West-produced “LUV NY” album.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York where the people are fresh, thirty-something producer Ray West has lived most of his life dedicated to the culture of Hip-Hop.
Having spent years honing his musical talents tucked away in the basement digging through old records and crafting his own unique sound, West’s recent collectable vinyl releases on his Red Apples 45 imprint (co-owned by D.I.T.C.’s A.G.) have quickly gained a cult following amongst vinyl lovers and fans of true-school Hip-Hop.
Genuinely bringing something different to the table, the humble music man’s ability to mix traditionally dusty-fingered East Coast-flavoured samples with progressive, organic live instrumentation conjures up images of early-80s graffiti-covered subway trains careering along rail-tracks built on the rings of Saturn.
Although West’s full-length 2010 album “Everything’s Berri” with A.G. initially confused some listeners with it’s spacey keyboards and minimalist feel, it also drew in many fans who eagerly awaited collaborations with Rotten Apple representatives like the late Party Arty and Roc Marciano on releases such as “Pianos In The Projects” and “The Pianos Companion EP”.
The producer’s latest project “LUV NY” is the work of a Hip-Hop super-group that would almost seem too good to be true if it wasn’t for the fact the music is already out there as proof their album has been completed. Consisting of D.I.T.C. legends A.G. and O.C., Ultramagnetic space cowboy Kool Keith, Uptown fly guy Kurious, Dave Dar and Strong Island smooth assassin Roc Marciano, the LUV NY crew’s rap pedigree is unquestionable and when matched with West’s intriguing soundscapes results in music that draws from the past whilst also looking towards the future.
Here, the BX studio maestro speaks on his early days as a fan of Hip-Hop, how he came to be surrounded by a posse of such iconic rap figures and the science behind the LUV NY release.
Beings that you’re from the birthplace of Hip-Hop what are your earliest memories of the music?
“My first true experience of Hip-Hop was the song “Roxanne, Roxanne” by U.T.F.O.. There were a bunch of older kids on the block I grew-up on who were deejays and they had the boombox outside and they were playing “Roxanne, Roxanne”. I was still a little kid, about eight or nine-years-old, but I was just totally mesmerised by that song. I mean, I always loved records even before that. I was like a record collector as a child (laughs). I had like old comic book records and things like that. So I started buying rap records around that time and I also got along with those older kids so I started deejay-ing around when I was about twelve-years-old. I already had a bunch of rap records from collecting beforehand, but those older guys helped me out and gave me a turntable, a mixer and I started really deejay-ing. So to answer your question, it was the deejays in my area and “Roxanne, Roxanne” that really made me fall in love with this music.”
Given that you were so young at the time were you already aware of the historic connection between the Bronx and the music you were discovering or was that something that came later?
“I learned about the history through really listening to brothers on the block. I mean, I really couldn’t get enough of the music and the culture. I was watching “Beat Street”, “Wild Style”, listening to KRS-One and analysing lyrics. Then the older cats would tell me about the records and artists before my era like the Sugarhill releases and Melle Mel and they would always tell me to respect where the music came from. So I really learnt about the history of the culture through listening to the music and from the older cats.”
When did you make the transition from deejay-ing to producing?
“It was awhile after I started deejay-ing. I deejay-ed from the time I was twelve to when I was in my twenties. I mean, we used to make songs in high-school but we didn’t have a sampler or anything, I’d just beat-juggle to keep the breakbeats going like “Impeach The President” and my friends would rhyme. So I was always around emcees but they would rhyme over instrumentals or breakbeats, not beats that I’d made. I was in my early twenties when I first brought a sampler and then I started making beats. But I didn’t really consider making a song or getting into the business. I was deejay-ing all over town in Manhattan and around the Bronx and then I was making beats for myself in the basement. I just loved digging through records and finding samples. I didn’t really try to make a proper song until I’d been making beats for about five or six years.”
Did any of the emcees you were working with in high-school go on to make a larger impact in the rap game?
“Most of them were cats who stayed local and just did the music thing for fun. I remember in high-school I got to meet Lord Tariq before he made any of the big records that he blew-up with. He was a little older than me but he came to a talent show that I was deejay-ing at and he rhymed over my set. I think I was bringing back the beginning drum track of Cypress Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill A Man” for him to rhyme to. We exchanged information but I never followed through with him and then he blew-up. Then years later I made about six or seven songs with him and I reminded him of that night but he only vaguely remembered and didn’t really remember me being there (laughs). All the other cats that were rhyming at the time were just cats from the buildings near where I lived. Some of them still rhyme, some of them don’t. Some of them aren’t around anymore. The only one from back then who is definitely still rhyming is Abdul Jabar who was on A.G.’s “Everything’s Berri” project and also on one of my vinyl releases. He’s like one of my boys from way back in our high-school days who always stuck with the music and he’s still a really good friend. He’s a family guy and doesn’t really work too much on music but I always try to include him when I can.”
An obvious question, but who would you say influenced you as a producer?
“I’d say Premier, D.I.T.C. of course, Diamond D, I always really liked KRS-One’s beats, the Kenny Parker stuff, Q-Tip, Pete Rock. But really I’d say DJ Premier had the biggest influence on me prior to me hearing J Dilla and Madlib. Once I caught onto Slum Village I really loved Dilla’s sound, that minimalistic approach to it.”
When you and A.G. dropped the “Everything’s Berri” album in 2010 it was met with mixed reactions from people who felt it was so different from what they were used to hearing from him – how did you feel about the way the album was received by some longstanding A.G. fans?
“I try to read all the comments and take everything in and see what people are saying. I mean, A.G. has some die-hard fans that only want to hear some traditional A.G. s**t, but what me and A do isn’t in the typical A.G. style. It’s not the straight boom-bap, raw rhyming that people have come to know him for. So I knew there were going to be people that liked it and some people that didn’t. But I also knew that there would be people who’d never listened to A.G. before who might start to listen to him because of that project. So I knew we might lose some people with “Everything’s Berri” but also gain some other people along the way and give A a fresh platform. I mean, we do some street stuff sometimes as well, but it was interesting to see the different reactions people had to that project. People listen to music for different reasons and the vibe is always more laidback with my stuff. Some people like to take music to the gym to help them workout, but “Everything’s Berri” isn’t the album to take if that’s the type of energy you’re looking for (laughs).”
Maybe for after the workout…
“Exactly. Like afterwards when you’re relaxing having a glass of wine or something (laughs)…”
So how did you actually hook up with A.G. to make that project?
“We met through a friend of mine who had contacted A.G. to do a song and he asked me to engineer the session for him. So I actually picked up A that day and drove him to my man’s house to do the song and then I dropped him back, but all through the day we’d really been getting along. I was always a huge D.I.T.C. fan and felt that A.G. was a really strong lyricist in that crew, so I wanted to show him more of my stuff and he really took an interest in what I played him. I had an idea for an EP at that time called “Pianos In The Projects” and I asked him about it and he was really interested in the music. We just really got along on a personal level so it made the creative process easy. We started recording under this “Pianos In The Projects” umbrella but the songs we recorded never actually came out as part of that project. We still actually have those. But recording those tracks was the basis of our initial relationship and we really felt like we’d hit on a style of music that was something that we’d created together that was different to anything else. A.G. having so much confidence in my sound pushed me into being even more obscure, and in turn me having confidence in A.G. and not telling him to rhyme about certain subjects but just letting him do whatever he wanted to do conceptually, it opened him up to be more free and make songs about girls and other things that he might not usually do. Plus, A introduced me to Party Arty early on and he was another guy who believed in me immediately. Party started taking beats home that I’d play him to make his own songs and then I’d see him three or four days later and he’d have two songs done. Arty lived in the projects and his house was so crazy because he had his Pro-Tools set-up, a picture of J Dilla on the wall, a gold Big L plaque and a bed. That was Party Arty’s environment (laughs). I’m kinda going off on a tangent here from your question…
Not at all…
“When I used to listen to Ghetto Dwellas before I even knew any of those guys I always liked Party Arty and D-Flow, but you always got the feel through the music that Party Arty was really A.G.’s man. But when you actually met them, you knew why Party was his man like that. Arty was a real stand-up, honest, positive guy who was a real musician. When you were working with Arty he really knew what to do to make a song better and he was way more talented than the world actually got to see.”
It was definitely a tragic loss because leading up to his passing it really felt like Party Arty was starting to step into the spotlight in his own right musically…
“Yo, it’s so sad bro. You know that Showbiz album “Street Talk”? I feel like Party Arty dominated that album with some great work. That’s such a great album because of 80 and if you look on the credits Show thanks Party Arty in particular, so you could tell he really did a lot in terms of tying that album together and filling the spaces wherever Show needed him.”
Being such a huge D.I.T.C. fan it must have felt like a dream come true to have A.G. and Arty really supporting what you were doing as a producer?
“It really was like living a dream and still to this day I cant believe the situations that I find myself in with this music. If you would’ve told me ten years ago that this is what I would be doing I wouldn’t have even believed it. So I really am thankful to both A and Party for their confidence in me as they gave me the opportunity to really take things to the next level.”
You mentioned earlier that you’re aware your sound is something different, so how would you actually describe your production style?
“I believe I’m capable of what I’m capable of. I’m not about duplicating someone else. My style is sample-driven music so the inspiration for it comes from digging through a lot of old records, but it does also have a lot of live components to it as well. I use a lot of Moog synths, hand instruments, conga drums, things like that. So I feel like my style is very free and as long as I believe it sounds good and it hits my soul in the right place I’m able to feel confident and work with that. So it’s really about freedom but it’s also sample-driven at the same time.”
Pianos seem to be an ongoing theme in your music – is there a particular reason for that?
“I love how pianos sound. My mother has been a piano player since she was little, she’s played in Carnegie Hall and she still does play. So a lot of the time when I’d be in the basement working on music I could hear the piano upstairs. I actually recorded my mother into Pro-Tools (laughs). But she’s not an ear musician, she has to read music, so she plays a lot of classical material rather than being someone who would sit there and vibe out and play some s**t. So I think growing up my whole life hearing the piano being played, I guess now I just gravitate towards that sound in my music. Plus, I think that rhymes over pianos from a rapper with a good voice just sound right. I mean, it can sound hard, it can sound emotional. I make beats using other instruments as well but I always feel like I move forward more with the piano stuff.”
The new “LUV NY” project features a number of New York legends coming together as a group – how did you manage to bring together A.G., O.C., Kurious, Kool Keith and Roc Marciano for this album?
“Right after introducing me to Party Arty, A.G. also introduced me to O.C. kinda early. Me and O formed our own relationship. We actually have our own project that we’re still working on, which O took a break from to do the Apollo Brown album. So O became family very early on. Then we did a show with Kurious and Dave Dar at the Bronx Musuem and A and Jorge knew each other, but we didn’t know Dave and I didn’t know Jorge. But we really got along and I loved what they were doing as the Bamboo Bros, so then we started working together on songs just having fun with it.”
What about Kool Keith?
“A.G. knows that Kool Keith is my favourite rapper of all-time. I’ve been a fan for years and have been to so many of his shows, he’s just the most hilarious, real dude ever. A.G. ran into Keith on Fordham Road in the Bronx and told him how much of a fan I was and that he should come by the studio and check out what we were doing and listen to some of my beats. Keith actually lives fairly close to me, so he came through to do a song with A and then me and Keith started working together and recorded maybe like thirty songs.
And finally, how does Roc Marciano fit into the puzzle?
Now, the thing with Roc Marciano, I had credits on his “Marcberg” album. Also, years ago I reached out with Roc to do a song with A as I felt the two of them would be great doing a song together. I was willing to pay him and approached him on a business level, but Roc was like ‘Nah, for A.G. I’ve got no problem doing that for free.’ So they did a song together. Me and Roc then started working together and while I was recording and mixing “Marcberg” we would do songs together inbetween. So now all these brothers were coming in and out of my studio at different times or sometimes people would arrive early and would be in there together with each other. It’s not like I reached out to a bunch of people just to do a project, the artists on the “LUV NY” album are the people who are around me on a regular basis who I’m making music with out of love not because of business. Me and A years ago came up with the name LUV NY and said that if we ever put together a big group or something that’s what we should call it. So I brought that back to the table and told A that with all the brothers we had working together, with all the songs we’d recorded, we could just do a couple more songs to solidify it and we could make it the “LUV NY” project. Everyone involved in the album has mutual respect for each other, everyone worked on it together and I feel like it’s special for that reason. There are no emailed vocals involved, it wasn’t about money, it really was a crazy blessing to be able to work with these brothers on a project like this.”
So does the name of the group purely reflect the sound of the album or is there a deeper meaning to the LUV NY concept?
“It stands for the blessing of being from this place. It’s not about having any malice towards anywhere else, or being critical about the music that’s coming from anywhere else, it’s just about showing what we do here in New York. It’s not necessarily about constantly waving the New York banner in the rhymes, it’s just everybody doing what they wanted to do and by doing that they’re showing you the different flavours of NYC, with Kurious being from Uptown, A.G. from the South Bronx, Roc from Long Island, O.C. being from Brooklyn, Dave Dar is from Washington Heights and Keith being from the Bronx as well. It’s just about some brothers coming together and making the music that comes naturally as artists who were born and raised in New York. It’s a happy album and is really just a celebration.”
How do you feel the city has changed when you think back to the NY of your childhood compared to today?
“I think it’s definitely got a lot safer (laughs). In the 70s and 80s it was definitely a wild place with things like the crack era and what happened around that in New York during that time. Then in the 90s the city started to get cleaned up a little bit and then by the time we got to the 2000s it was definitely a much safer place to live and visit. There were a lot of neighbourhoods that before you wouldn’t really want to go to or would even be able to go to, whereas now you can go there, sit down and have a cheese platter and some wine or something (laughs). So the city has definitely changed on that level and it’s definitely not as segregated as it used to be. But in terms of the energy, it’s still very much that same fast-paced New York and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Do you see a parallel between how New York has changed socially and the changes in some of the music from the city given that many people feel the Rotten Apple has had something of a sonic identity crisis in recent years?
“It’s weird because I just feel like Hip-Hop became such a big business that the organic element of the music became lost as people started to try and emulate successful formulas or sounds from other areas. I mean, there are definitely still good artists out there that are unknown in New York but the business isn’t built for that. If you’re going to pay attention to New York radio then you’re going to feel insecure about the music you’re making because if you’re doing something that reflects where you’re from as a New York artist it’s not going to sound like what they’re playing on the radio. It’s all good for people to monopolise the business like that, but the culture will still be here when they’re done making their money out of Hip-Hop. But I really try to avoid all of that stuff. I don’t listen to the radio at all, I don’t pay attention to pop artists and what they had for lunch, I don’t do that. But at the same time, I don’t want people thinking that all I’m listening to is “Return Of The Boom-Bap” from KRS-One because I listen to a lot of new artists and am constantly buying music from those artists because there is a lot of quality out there that you’re not hearing about on the radio etc. But I really try to avoid getting caught up in all of that stuff and I don’t move in those circles because if you stay away from that type of energy that you can’t become infected by it to the point where it starts to influence what you do.”
Do you find it frustrating when people think that just because you’re being critical of new music that must mean you only listen to old Hip-Hop instead of understanding that you’re actually also listening to new artists who just aren’t being promoted by that mainstream machine?
“I hate it when people think that. It’s almost like mass brain-washing the way these major outlets present artists and make people feel as if they have to like them or follow them. But someone, somewhere who doesn’t even care about the music is getting paid off of that and that’s what it comes down to. But like I said, we will still be here after they’ve made their money. Hip-Hop will still be here, the culture will still be here, and we’ll still be here doing what we do. I mean, if you look at a younger artist like a Blu who’s been making some great music, it gives you confidence that the music isn’t going anywhere and that there are still artists coming up who have that creative spark. But it’s frustrating that so many people out there don’t understand that just because you don’t like what’s being played on the radio that doesn’t mean you’re not listening to new music. I mean, I don’t really talk Hip-Hop with a lot of people outside of my circle and there’s probably people at my day job who don’t even know what I do because it’s frustrating to have the same conversation over and over.”
Considering your previous projects have been released via Fat Beats or on your own Red Apples 45 imprint why did you decide to go with France’s Ascetic label for the “LUV NY” album?
“They reached out to me back in January and told me they’d been following what I’d been doing and would really like to put a project out. I mean, I’ve been with Fat Beats for awhile now but I know that I’m not a really big seller compared to some of the other artists they deal with, so I was looking for a smaller situation where the label could really concentrate on the record. So it was actually good timing as the “LUV NY” project was done and I’d actually been talking to some other labels here but everything kind of felt the same, so I decided to take a chance with Ascetic in France. I looked into the label and the projects they’d put out from people like Count Bass D and Pace Won and really liked what they’d done. It’s been great being involved with Ascetic and they’ve really been on top of their game and done a lot for this project in a short space of time.”
So given the numerous artist connections you have there must be some other projects currently being put together in the Red Apples lab?
“Right now I have a seven-inch EP with A.G. and Party Arty called “Dancin’ In The Rain” which is under the “Pianos In The Projects” style. I have the album coming with O.C. called “Ray’s Cafe” plus an album that I did with A.G. and John Robinson which was great to work on as J.R. brought in some horn-players and singers, so it’s my mellow production with some really great live instruments. Then we also have a D-Flow solo album on the way. We’ve done about six songs already and we also have a few choice guestspots on there from people like A.G. and Milano so that’s something to watch out for. I’m really looking to build Red Apples into being a harmonious little label that me and A can use to help quality artists survive in an honest way in a dishonest business. It’s definitely a challenge (laughs).”
“LUV NY” is out now on Ascetic Music.
LUV NY ft. A.G. & Roc Marciano – “Egyptology” (Ascetic Music / 2012)
Iconic Bronx-bred emcee Kool Keith explains his relationship with the Rotten Apple in the second online trailer for the forthcoming Ray West-produced “Luv NY” album featuring Roc Marciano, O.C., A.G., Kurious and Dave Dar.
Uptown Rotten Apple legend Kurious speaks on his relationship with the city that inspired the forthcoming Ray West-produced “Luv NY” album which also features Kool Keith, Roc Marciano, A.G., O.C. and Dave Dar.