Tag Archives: Party Arty

Return To 1999 Album Download – A.G. / Ghetto Dwellas

ghetto dwellas cover

D.I.T.C.’s Andre The Giant has unleashed the previously unreleased Ghetto Dwellas album for free download via his website – click here to get hold of some rugged Rotten Apple rap of the highest order from A.G.,  D-Flow and Party Arty (RIP) with production from Showbiz and Amed.

Old To The New Q&A – Majestic Gage

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Born and raised in the birthplace of Hip-Hop, Bronx emcee Majestic Gage takes his craft very seriously. It’s that same dedication to the art of lyricism which led to the 28-year-old wordsmith being recruited by NYC’s mighty D.I.T.C. to stand as one of the crew’s next generation of artists (alongside A-Bless and the now sadly deceased Tashane), building on the classic foundations set by the likes of Lord Finesse, A.G. and O.C. with genuine raw talent and a true love of the culture.

Having already recorded with established Diggin’ In The Crates affiliates D-Flow and Milano as one-third of Barbury’N, Gage has also been taking his own steps to showcase his skills, recently dropping the solo track “Fair Warning” produced by Harlem’s Ty Ahart.

With heavy involvement in the forthcoming D.I.T.C. compilation and his own projects on the horizon, Gage is determined to earn his props and respect the old-fashioned away, by displaying authentic microphone techniques rather than relying on gimmicks or being forced to embrace popular trends.

Here, the BX resident discusses his initial forays into rhyming, being co-signed by legendary producer Showbiz and his thoughts on New York radio.

What are some of your earliest Hip-Hop memories?

“My earliest memories of Hip-Hop are just hearing it around the house. My aunt, my mom’s younger sister Keisha, she used to always play Hip-Hop and I’d be hearing songs like Audio Two’s “Top Billin'”, other songs by Rakim, and I just used to walk around the house and listen to them. I used to think that rapping was cool, but at that point in time I never thought about actually doing music or anything like that. I mean, I was real young around that time, about seven-years-old, maybe even a little younger. So Hip-Hop was just something that I would hear in the house that I thought was cool and I used to rap along with the lyrics and I’d see the videos on TV.”

Although you were obviously very young at that point, did you have any awareness that the music you were hearing actually started in the same borough of New York that you were being raised in?

“I wasn’t aware at that age that it had happened in my borough like that. But, I used to watch “Beat Street” all the time (laughs). That was one of my favourite movies when I was little. I used to watch that movie over and over and over. Then, as I got older and a little more into the music, I started going back and listening to a lot of the older stuff which gave me some of the history behind the music. I mean, my mom wouldn’t even let me listen to the new stuff that was coming out, like when Biggie was first coming up and artists like that. She would not let me listen to that stuff due to the content of the music (laughs). So I used to listen to a lot of older artists like Kool Moe Dee, Rakim, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and stuff like that. In fact, listening to KRS-One on “South Bronx” was actually how I really found out that Hip-Hop started in the Bronx (laughs). Looking back on it now, that was kinda fortunate for me, because I got to hear that stuff first and to know where the music came from. Plus, like I said, I was watching “Beat Street” and seeing the break-dancers and people putting graffiti on the walls, which was all just intriguing to me. But I still wasn’t actually rapping at that time. It was just cool to me to see Lee and them get down at The Roxy (laughs). I must have watched that movie about a hundred times.”

So being exposed to that older material helped you join the dots between what had happened in the 80s and the newer artists who were coming out at that time in the early-90s…

“Exactly. It was just fortunate for me to be exposed to that older music before I really heard the new stuff at the time, rather than starting to listen to the music where my era started in the 90s and then having to go back.”

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So when did you actually start rhyming? Was it something you made a conscious decision to pursue or did it happen more naturally?

“Man, I remember this like it was yesterday. I was nine-years-old and I was in the fourth grade. It would have been around 1994. It was the beginning of the school year and my teacher gave us a homework assignment where we all had to go home and write a rap about ourselves. Then, when we came back to school on Monday everybody had to say their rap in front of the class. Now, my step-father used to rap back in the day, so when I went home I got him to help me with the rhyme. But aside from that, I’ve always had music in me anyway as my biological father is a musician and plays guitar. So anyway, my step-father helped me write this rhyme and I memorised it, even though it was probably only about six bars long (laughs). So I went to school on Monday, I said the rhyme in front of the class and everybody went crazy (laughs). That was a real rush and it was something I’d never felt before in my life. I mean, I was a pretty shy kid and I wasn’t someone who talked a lot or anything like that, but doing that in front of the class just made me feel some sort of way and I just couldn’t really explain it. But my teacher liked the rhyme so much that she brought me down to the second grade class and they all sat down in a circle around me and I said the same rhyme in front of these second graders and they were going crazy again! That feeling just came back (laughs). So, after that, I was like, ‘That was pretty ill.’ So what I started doing was, my step-father had a bunch of rhymes that he’d written back in the day….”

Was your step-father someone who was known for rhyming back-in-the-day or was he just doing it more as a past-time with his boys because Hip-Hop was so prevalent in the Bronx?

“Nah, he wasn’t really known for it. I mean, he was around people like Showbiz and them back in the day being from the Bronx, but he was rhyming just to rhyme. He didn’t put anything out or really do anything with it. I can’t even remember the name he said he used to rhyme under. But he had a whole bunch of rhymes written down and I used to go home from school and just read them. Then I started changing little words in the rhymes and I would learn those. But what happened is, after a certain amount of time, all of my step-father’s rhymes ran out (laughs). Now, I would change the words in his rhymes, spit the rhymes to my friends and everyone would be like, ‘Whoa!’ So when they eventually ran out, I had to start writing my own rhymes (laughs). I started rapping with my older brother, who had been writing rhymes before me. He was the person who put me on to people like Biggie and 2Pac. So we were writing our raps together and making little tapes to let our friends hear. Then, as I hit my teenage years, there weren’t really many people rhyming in my junior high-school, so my first ciphers were in my neighbourhood with some of the kids around there…”

Were you confident about your skills at that time or did it take awhile before people started saying that you were nice?

“Okay, so it was 1998 and I was about thirteen-years-old. I had mad raps already that I’d written and different song ideas. So this was around the time DMX had put out “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot”. I remember, it was night-time and me and my boys were on our way to Harlem. We were walking down the block in the Bronx going past this restaurant called the Shrimp Box. One of my boys was like, ‘Yo! That looks like DMX!’ and I was like, ‘Nah!’ Now, we used to play games like that if we saw someone that looked like a celebrity. So I thought that’s what he was doing. We went across the street and my man Shawn was like, ‘You should go in there and rap to him, yo.’ Man, I was scared (laughs). I was petrified and was just like, ‘Naaah’ So Shawn said, ‘I’m going to go in there and talk to him.’ So he went in there, came out and was like, ‘X said that you ain’t no real rapper if you can’t go in there and rap to him.’ So I sucked up all my nervousness, went in there, gave DMX a pound and he was crazy cool. He was in there with his wife and a couple of his boys, I spit my rhyme for DMX and he was bobbing his head. Now, the whole situation was crazy to me because this was when DMX was at the height of success and he was right there in the Bronx. He called his manager right there on the spot, but he never picked up. But that’s when I really started thinking, ‘Okay, I’ve really got to get on this music thing, because if DMX says I’m nice then I must have something.’ I mean, X was one of my favourite artists back then.”

dmx cover

That must have really been an incredible moment for you as a young emcee to be given props by one of New York’s biggest artists at the time…

“Yeah, definitely. What was funny though was when I went back to my ‘hood and I’m telling people, ‘Yo, I rapped for DMX!’ everybody was like, ‘You’re lying!’ I was like, ‘Yo! I rapped for DMX on Third Avenue in the Shrimp Box!’ He autographed my dollar bill, so I showed them that and they just told me it was fake (laughs). But that was dope though to meet DMX like that. But it was after that, when I went to high-school, that was when I started to have my first battles. I’d only ever been in ciphers before and had never really battled, but people were telling me that I was nice so I was kinda itching to battle. I’d seen people battling before and always wanted to test those waters. So once I got into high-school, it was on (laughs). I remember a kid approached me within the first two weeks of starting high-school, he just walked right up to me and was like, ‘Yo! You wanna battle?’ It was just me, him and his man, nobody else was even paying attention and we just started going at it. We ended-up getting escorted out of the hall because everyone had to go to class, but I felt like I’d won so I was telling people that I’d battled him and that I ate him (laughs). Now, I wasn’t knowing that this guy Dave was considered the king of battling in the school. So, I was in the gym one day and he came up to me with mad people and was like, ‘You said you ate me? Let’s battle right now!’ We battled each other everyday after that (laughs). Every time he saw me, we battled. So I would go home and write my little raps because I knew he was going to come looking for me the next day. That went on until he gave me my respect and was like, ‘Okay, you’re nice.’ But that whole situation really helped me sharpen up my skills.”

At that time in the late-90s, Bronx rappers like Big Pun, Fat Joe and Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz were really holding their own against other NY artists like Jay-Z, DMX and Nas who were starting to make mainstream noise. Were you looking up to BX artists like that as a young kid or did their success make them feel a million miles away from where you were at?

“I mean, Lord Tariq and them, as young emcees we definitely looked up to them. I’d never actually seen Tariq or Money Boss in person because I’m not from their section of the Bronx. Tariq was from the Soundview area and I’m more real southern Bronx, around about the 150s and the 130s. But I did used to see Fat Joe back then. Joe used to have his store on Third Avenue, right next to the Shrimp Box where I met DMX (laughs). This was when he first came out with his 560 clothing line and he opened up his store in the Bronx. So, Fat Joe used to be up there all the time and I remember Shyheim used to come through as well. I remember seeing Big Pun up in there one time as well, but this was before Pun had even come out. I just saw this big dude up in the store and thought it was Fat Joe’s brother (laughs). But Joe was from Forest which isn’t too far away from my projects, so he used to always be around the area.”

So how and when did the link with D.I.T.C. happen?

“I hooked-up with D-Flow first. My man Dunn Dee had known Flow for years because our project buildings aren’t too far from each other. So Flow and Party Arty used to be in my hood all the time and they knew my man Dunn Dee who I used to rhyme with and then he actually ended up managing me. I put a mix-tape out called “The Landlord” around 2004 and while I was working on my second mix-tape project, Dee let D-Flow hear the first one. He came to my hood and I guess he liked the mix-tape because he was like, ‘Yo! You should come to the studio and record.’ So the first time I went there me and Flow actually did a song together. It wasn’t even planned or nothing like that but he heard what I was doing and was like, ‘Yo, I’ve got something for that too.’ The song actually came out dope (laughs). So I just kept going up to Flow’s studio to record and then after awhile he approached me and my man Dunn Dee and told us that he wanted me to be a part of Get Dirty. Flow broke everything down to me and told me that he still wanted me to do my music the way that I was doing it, but that I’d rep the brand and all that. I was definitely cool with it and I met Party Arty and all of that. Arty was crazy cool and he treated me like a brother from the gate. Both Flow and Arty really treated me like family from the jump.”

Did you have to get the official stamp of approval from Showbiz?

“The first time I met Show, I’d gone to the studio with D-Flow to record. We’d gone down to D&D, which is now HeadQCourterz, and that was the first time I met Show. He didn’t really pay attention to me at the time because he wasn’t even really there for that. I just gave him a pound and that was it, y’know. But then Flow kept saying that he was going to tell Show that we should do a group and he was telling me about Milano. But anyway, Flow kept saying that he was going to tell Showbiz about me. So, I waited patiently and it was probably about a year after that when Flow took me down to D&D and let Show hear my music. All three of us were sitting in the room listening to my music and Show was saying that he liked it and that he also really liked my concepts. That was something that I always tried to do, have concepts, because I can rap all day but I really wanted to show people that I could actually structure a song. So anyway, Show liked the music and it was on from there. But the first few times we went to the studio after that, we didn’t even record no music, we were just in there having conversations and building. That’s what I like about Show, the fact that we didn’t just jump straight into the music, we were in there having conversations about everything from just life in general to Hip-Hop and whatever else.”

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Considering at this point you were starting to mix with some real Hip-Hop legends, were you fully aware of the legacy that Diggin’ In The Crates had already created?

“Yeah, I definitely was. I mean, I used to see A.G. around my hood and I already knew that he was a legend because the older guys around me were putting me on to the music that Show & A.G. had already put out. I always thought they were dope, Show with the beats and those drums…”

It’s almost impossible to talk about Showbiz without mentioning drums… 

“Exactly (laughs). So to have the opportunity to actually work around people like that was just so dope to me. When Show first told me that he liked my music I went home and I was just so happy (laughs). I went home to my girl like, ‘Yo! He liked my s**t!”

When you then started recording with D-Flow and Milano as Barbury’N, did you feel a lot of pressure considering they were already established and respected, while you were a new name to a lot of people? 

“I definitely felt that pressure but I liked it though (laughs). I knew that people really weren’t expecting anything from me because most people had never really heard of me before. You had Milano, you got D-Flow and then you got this kid Majestic Gage and I knew people were going to be like, ‘Who’s that?’ But I feel that whole situation really helped me get better as an emcee and it really let me showcase my talents alongside two already respected lyricists. I’m just really glad that both Flow and Milano let me work with them on the Barbury’N music like they did because they were already veterans and they really didn’t have to let the young boy into their circle. So I really do thank them for that.”

Barbury’N – “Living At Still” (D.I.T.C. Entertainment / 2011)

Lyricism is obviously something that’s very important to you, but what keeps you on that creative path of putting so much effort into your writing considering how quick people are to accept simple, throwaway rhymes today?

“Number one, it’s just because I love to be super lyrical, y’know. That’s the era I came up in when dudes were just super nice. You had to be nice. That’s just something that I’ve always stuck to regardless of what the climate of the game might be. But also, I keep doing it for people like yourself who’re still checking for it. I do it for people who still want to really listen to lyrics. So I don’t mind going against the grain with my music and swimming upstream because I feel like the game’s going to come full circle and it’s going to get back to being about people’s skills. But that’s why I still make my music like that, because I know there’s still people out there that love to listen to music like that. That’s what I love to listen to. I mean, I understand that not everyone can be lyrical. But I have the ability to do that, so why not put my best foot forward every time and deliver that, y’know.”

Also, with the Diggin’ In The Crates affiliation and lyricism really being at the heart of the music the crew have released over the years, you really have an obligation to carry on that tradition…

“Definitely. The core D.I.T.C. fans won’t expect anything less than that. So I definitely have to deliver on that aspect. I mean, sometimes I think it was destined for me to land in this position with Diggin’ In The Crates because they’re such a staple of the Bronx. Obviously, Big L was from Harlem and O.C. repped for Brooklyn, but the original members like Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Showbiz & AG, they’re all from the Bronx, so I definitely think it was meant for me to be here.”

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Recently there’s been a lot of discussion around New York stations like Hot 97 not being totally supportive of underground New York artists and Old Man Ebro’s Minors / Majors comparison has generated a lot of feedback. What are your thoughts on that?

“I mean, I tell people all the time, the climate of the game is so different now that you don’t need stations like that to win. You don’t need Hot 97 to win. You don’t need Power 105 to win. I mean, it’s great to get your records played on there and it definitely helps, but you can still get your music out there without them. Plus, the deejays up at those stations, they can’t really choose what they want to play, they get told what to play. I mean, I run into people all the time that say they don’t want to hear the same ten or twelve records all day. But as far as the artists here in New York who do still cater to that traditional sound, they’re coming up and it’s through others means of winning aside from the radio. Dudes like Action Bronson and Joey Badass, they get radio spins now but they put that work in themselves so the radio had to take notice. Then you’ve got other artists like Spit Gemz who’re doing their thing. I mean, the radio situation is what it is, but as New York artists we can’t lose our identity through trying to follow trends because trends only last so long, y’know. I just feel like we shouldn’t be making records just to get them played on the radio. I mean, we’re at a point now where some dudes have hooks that are longer than there actual verses (laughs).”

What’s the status of the forthcoming D.I.T.C. compilation project that was announced last year featuring yourself, A-Bless and Tashane?

“All the music for that is done. I mean, A.G. and Show have got some other things that they’re working on and obviously they announced the remix album project with a variety of producers working on there. But the compilation is definitely still in the pipeline and all the music is done, all the videos are done and everything. A.G. is on a bunch of joints on the album, but it’s basically just focusing on the next generation of Diggin’ In The Crates. Show and them didn’t want to take too much of the shine away from us by having everyone on the album. But I do understand that when some of the fans see that name Diggin’ In The Crates they do want to hear the original members. I do get that. I read the comments on the Internet and everything. But this compilation project is about those same original members passing the torch to us so we can continue that legacy. I mean, a few years ago you had people talking about the generation gap in Hip-Hop and how some of the younger cats didn’t respect the artform and how some of the older cats weren’t giving younger artists a chance. But now that gap is actually being bridged by what D.I.T.C. are doing, some of those same fans who were talking about that generation gap don’t want to accept the music. But this isn’t something that you see happening a lot, with respected older artists putting out talented new artists and really embracing what they’re doing. But those negative comments didn’t surprise me when I first started reading them. I mean, Showbiz prepared us for it early on and he told us that there would be people out there who didn’t want to accept us as part of Diggin’ In The Crates. So when I started seeing those comments, I was just like, ‘Show said this would happen a looooong time ago.'”

Everyone really represented in that D.I.T.C. cipher video that was released last year with A.G. and DJ Premier, but it was definitely sad to hear about the passing of Tashane not long after that…

“Yeah, definitely. I mean, it was so dope to put that video together. Myself, A-Bless and Tashane all had a really good relationship already because we’d been recording songs together before we actually did that video. We were all just hungry. So for the three of us to be around Premier, Showbiz, O.C., A.G. and Lord Finesse, it was just dope for them to let us rock out like that. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I can remember Tashane joking around like, ‘I ain’t got my rhymes, son. Let me hear what you got?’ I was like, ‘Nah, son.’ (Laughs). But Tashane was just super talented and creative. He was passionate about everything he did. Even when he was just talking, you could hear his passion when he would just speak. That was just him. Everything he said, he meant it, although he was also a joker as well. But when it came down to that music, he was definitely on it. So him passing was definitely a real loss.”

So what can people expect from you next as a solo artist?

“I got music, y’know. I could put out a project tomorrow if I wanted to. But I don’t want it to get mixed up with the D.I.T.C. compilation. I’ve got some songs that I want to release, so I’m going to be putting those out with some visuals just to keep feeding the people something. Then, eventually I will be dropping a project. Hopefully that will be sometime this year. I just really want to be consistent with putting the music out because nowadays people can forget about you real quick. But I’m not going to put just anything out for the sake of it. I definitely want the music I put out there to really leave an impression on people. So this year, I really want the people to be able to get to know me better through my music.”

Ryan Proctor

Follow Majestic Gage on Twitter – @MajesticGage

Majestic Gage – “Fair Warning” (Majestic Gage Music / 2014)

Old To The New Q&A – D-Flow (Ghetto Dwellas / D.I.T.C.)

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Hailing from the project buildings of the South Bronx, NYC’s D-Flow first came to the attention of most in the mid-90s, introduced as a new recruit to the legendary Rotten Apple crew Diggin’ In The Crates via two stellar appearances on Showbiz & A.G.’s well-received “Goodfellas” album.

Having combined forces with long-time friend Party Arty to form the Ghetto Dwellas, Flow’s intricate verses and battle-hardened rhymes were heard on numerous D.I.T.C.-related releases throughout the late-90s / early-t0-mid 2000s, including classic tracks such as “Themes, Schemes & Dreams” alongside O.C. and “Who’s The Dirtiest” off Show & A.G.’s “Full Scale LP”.

Always clearly able to hold his own when sharing the mic with some of the greatest emcees to have emerged from the five boroughs, D-Flow’s standing in the game hasn’t always mirrored the level of his talent, with circumstances and life situations sometimes disrupting the BX representative’s career plans, not least the unexpected passing of Party Arty in 2008.

With his new “Paraphernalia” mixtape due to drop imminently, Flow took some time out to discuss his early days as a member of D.I.T.C., working with Party Arty and future plans.

The Bronx is back!

What was your first introduction to Hip-Hop?

“I was in middle-school. One day I was on a school trip and a partner of mine he had the headphones. You remember when you’d get on the bus to go on a school trip and everyone would be trying to get into something, whether you got a book to read or your music to listen to? Well, I didn’t have anything and this partner of mine next to me had a Walkman. He gave me his headphones and what I was listening to was “The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick”. I was so amazed by what I was hearing with the story-telling and everything. Then from that point, it was on. I was trying to figure out how to do it, how I could hear more of it and where I could get it. So that was the very first taste I got of Hip-Hop when I was about fourteen-years-0ld.”

Growing-up in the South Bronx did you already have any awareness of what was going on in the BX in terms of Hip-Hop?

“I mean, around that time I wasn’t really of an age where I was allowed to be out in the streets of the South Bronx alone. But eventually I would get out and hang-out a little past my curfew time (laughs). I’d sneak in the back of places and get a taste of the jams that were going on in my projects. I’m from Mott Haven projects which is in the heart of the South Bronx. You can’t mention the South Bronx without mentioning those projects. Now, in Mott Haven they had a community centre and in the back of the community centre is this dome where they’ve got a stage with an awning on top and dudes used to get on stage and perform. So that was another early taste of Hip-Hop that I got when I used to sneak into the back of the jams and see what was going on with dudes from the neighbourhood spinning on the turntables trying to come up.”

Did you see anyone performing who went on to do bigger things outside of the local jams?

“Absolutely. I’m right next door to another project called Patterson projects, which is where A.G. is from. Now, when I used to go over to those projects I used to see Percee P tearing the mic down at the jams. This was way before I started doing what I do. But I used to watch cats like him and Lord Finesse and A.G. doing their thing at the time. This would have been around the late-80s. Like I said, I was kinda young so I was kind of unaware of what was going on with them at the time. I knew Finesse was a battle rapper and that he’d battled Percee P and would go to different schools and just tear dudes down. If I’m not mistaken, that’s actually how A.G. and Lord Finesse met through battling each other. But I was young at the time so those were the stories that I’d hear the older dudes talking about. I mean, I didn’t even know A.G. at this time.”

At what point did you actually start rhyming?

“Well, after the jams and stuff like that I started running into dudes on the street, like seeing A.G. in the neighbourhood and other cats from other projects that were close by. Like, over in Mitchell projects there was this group called Hellbound and I remember this guy called O-Smooth who was another rapper from the neighbourhood and also a guy called D-Terror who was from another building in my projects who used to be out there rhyming. I used to see those cats doing what they did and I was just in awe. I was real interested in what they were doing. Rhyming was something that I just gravitated to and it kinda came to me easy when I tried to put it down. So that’s basically how I started, just seeing dudes do what they do and it was something that I loved to hear and something that I loved to watch. So I just gravitated to it and started trying to put my pen game down, listening to different people, emulating what they did, and that’s how I learnt to rap. Then when I went back to show my friends what I was doing they were in awe and liked what I was doing, so from there it was on.”

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At what point did you hook-up with Party Arty?

“Me and Arty grew-up in the same projects. He lived in the building right next to my building and we were actually in the first grade together. I mean, I knew Arty for longer than I knew most of my family members and it was the same for him. He was really a brother-from-another-mother. I grew-up at his house and he grew-up at my house. So we were together all the time before we even started rapping. Before the music it was basketball. We did everything together. I actually started rapping before Arty did. I didn’t introduce it to him because he had an older brother who used to spin on the turntables and write his little raps down, so Arty was kinda in a musical family already. But the idea of us doing something together was something that I brought to him as he was my best friend, like ‘Yo, I think we should do this.'”

So that was when the Ghetto Dwellas came into existence…

“Yeah. I mean we had a couple of other group names which I can’t really remember now, but Ghetto Dwellas was something that we stuck with from the early-90s. That was us.”

Did Party always have that gruff rhyme style that he became known for on record?

“Not at all. When we first started rhyming, Arty rhymed just like everyone else. He didn’t really develop his voice until he started maturing. Back in those days we used to drink the forty ounces, go in the studio and just bug out. I remember there was this one day when Arty was just extra hype when he was rhyming and we were like, ‘That sounds crazy! You’ve gotta rhyme like that from now on.’ So that whole style he had was something that he transitioned into after we started doing music.”

I always imagined him being mad tired after a studio session with the amount of effort it sounded like he was putting into his delivery…

“He was never, never tired (laughs). It was something that just came natural to him. He always made it seem effortless the way he delivered his rhymes.”

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How and when did you officially become part of D.I.T.C.?

“Well, becoming part of D.I.T.C. was definitely something that me and Arty had to work for. A.G. was a little older than us and he was a friend of Arty’s older brother and was a part of that generation. We were like the little guys at the time.   We watched A.G. do what he was doing and put out all that early stuff with Showbiz like “Giant In The Mental” and “Soul Clap”. I witnessed that in my neighbourhood, just seeing all the older cats being excited about it and playing the tape. I remember I asked this guy where he got the tape from and how much he paid for it. He told me it cost him fifty dollars and I believed him! That’s how incredible it was for me at the time. I believed a cassette tape would cost fifty dollars! So A.G. was part of that older generation and we were introduced to him by some of those older dudes who were telling him that he should check us out. Eventually we got with him, he heard us and loved what we were doing and immediately took us under his wing and started introducing us to other cats in different neighbourhoods that we might not have been aware of at the time. So we would go around and we would battle different cats just getting our name up and getting our buzz up, but still we weren’t allowed to go into the recording studio. We were still young dudes who were wet behind the ears and we really had to work for it.”

Were there any particular battles from back then that still stand-out to you?

“Absolutely, absolutely. There was a legendary battle we had on Big L’s plot up in Harlem on 139th. It was actually something that L set up for us because even though we weren’t from his neighbourhood we were still all family in D.I.T.C. and that’s how we all looked at each other. So Big L would be in his neighbourhood and have young cats coming up to him telling him, ‘Yo, this is what we’re doing’ and L would be like, ‘I’ve got some  young dudes that’s doing it the way that it’s supposed to be done’ and he would bring us through to battle cats. I remember this one particular battle you had the Lox out there and Mase as well. There was about forty people out on the block with dudes standing on cars and everything. Dudes were capturing the footage on cameras. You might actually see some of that battle in the Big L documentary DVD that’s coming out either at the end of this year or the beginning of next year…”

So was it just you and Party Arty going up against people?

“We were out there going up against the whole of Harlem (laughs). We were out there for like seven hours and cats were just coming from different sides of the town to do what they do. But me and my man stood there all night with Deshawn as well and we just held it down from day to night. By the time it was over it was night time and dudes were gone already (laughs). It was a real memorable time. I was just happy to be involved and see that dudes were feeling what I was doing. So at that point I basically knew everybody in D.I.T.C. because, like I said, Big L would come through and get us anytime he felt like some kids needed to be put in their place. We were kinda in the mix of everything that was going on at the time. But it did take time for us to meet everybody in the crew. I mean, when we first started going to the studio you’d probably just have Big L in there one night and then maybe the next time you’d have O.C. and Lord Finesse. Then maybe the next time Buckwild would be in there with Showbiz. So gradually we became part of the family and got up with everybody.”

What influence did that have on you as a young upcoming emcee to be around other artists who were already considered giants in the rap game?

“It had a great influence. I mean, to this day, all the lessons that I learnt back then from being around those dudes I still apply to what I do. The way I do my music, the type of music that I do. That’s my family right there and their influence just rubs right off. I mean, I got to be around so many talented artists from being with the crew up in D&D Studios and Chung King. I got to experience so much at such a young age that I felt like a vet at the age of twenty-one. It really opened my eyes as well to all the hard work that went into making the records, like with the mixing process, the mastering process, dealing with the reels and all of that. Back then we were carrying around forty pound tape reels from the car up three flights of stairs to the studio and all of that. So all of those details really helped shape and mold me, like seeing how different dudes all had their own different way of working and things like that. Like, O.C. might record his verse differently to A.G. who might record his verse differently to Big L. I got to see so many dudes working through their recording process. I remember one time I got to see Das EFX record and watch how they laid their verses down. I mean, I always thought they went into the booth at separate times to record their individual parts, but they were in the booth together using the same mic and laying their verses on the same tape track. They were in there going back and forth like they were performing a show (laughs).”

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Your first appearance on wax was on Show & A.G.’s 1995 album “Goodfellas” with you featuring on both “Got The Flava” with Method Man and “Add On” with Lord Finesse…

“When I did that first song with A.G. and Lord Finesse it was something I had to work towards. Party Arty was on the album before me, but getting that spot on there was definitely something I had to work towards in terms of going through a process and writing a couple of verses. It was a privilege. I knew there was an album being done and I knew I had to get on that album. So I had to put that work in. Like I said, Arty had already secured his spot on the project before me so I had to go extra hard  and really prove to A.G. that I was worthy of being on there. Once I got on there it was a beautiful thing.”

“Got The Flava” is one of my favourite posse cuts of the 90s – what do you remember about that studio session?

“Yeah, that was definitely a memorable studio session and I’ll tell you why. Right before that studio session Party Arty had been shot three times and he was still recovering when we did that song. Plus, that session was the day we met Method Man. We were all in Chung King and Method Man came through and we were all introduced and he jumped on the song. At the time, Method Man was Arty’s favourite artist so that was a real good day. I’ll never forget that day.”

Was Method Man actually supposed to be on that track originally?

“He was actually on tour at the time and had left the tour to come back to New York to take care of something. I think he was just coming to the studio to drop something off or maybe pick something up or whatever. We happened to meet in the lobby and I introduced myself, told Meth who I was and who I was there working with and it was all love from there. Method Man came into the session and we just vibed out for about three hours. That’s exactly how it happened.”

I remember that Method Man appearance really stood-out because that was the first time that a major emcee unaffiliated with the D.I.T.C. camp had featured on a Showbiz & A.G. track…

“Right, right. Well back then, D.I.T.C. felt they really didn’t need any extra emcees guesting on their projects. As a crew they really had it all together themselves. I actually think putting Method Man on “Got The Flava” was something that A.G. wanted to do for me and Arty because like I said, Method Man was Arty’s favourite artist. So I think A.G. asking Meth to get on that track was something that he did for us. If that had just been a track that A.G. was on I don’t think that would have been his first thought back then to ask someone outside the crew to get on it. But being as we were all on the song together, that was perfect.”

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Around that time how much work were you actually doing in the studio with Arty on Ghetto Dwellas material?

“We were consistently working. We weren’t necessarily working on any particular project but we were always working on new material so that we were always ready for whatever opportunities might have presented themselves at the time. We were in it for the ride and we loved to make music. It was fun to us. It was incredible to us to be a part of everything that was going on around us. We worked hard and a lot of those songs that we were recording at that time really blended in with what the rest of the crew were doing. “Make It Official” was one of the first tracks we recorded when we first got in the studio which was produced by Wali World. From listening to that, you could really hear the potential.”

“Feel The Beat” was another early track that’s definitely stood the test of time…

“Yep, yep. I remember all of those songs. Man, you’re really bringing back some memories…”

Considering the reputation D.I.T.C. had built by the mid-90s for delivering classic Hip-Hop, did you feel any pressure knowing that fans would have high expectations for any new artist coming out of the crew?

“Man, I wasn’t thinking about no pressure or anything like that. I just wanted to rhyme. I didn’t care who I was rhyming in front of or where I was rhyming at. I just loved to do it. Whenever it was time to get it in I was always prepared and ready. Like, if you watch that legendary Big L interview with 88HipHop.Com, that right there was totally unexpected. I was just up there for the ride and then it was like, ‘You want me to rhyme? Okay, cool…’ I was always focused and ready to step up. If you actually watch that clip closely you can even see the nerves in my face moving around (laughs)…

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As the Ghetto Dwellas you and Arty definitely built a nice cult fanbase for yourselves – were you surprised by how quickly people gravitated towards you as artists in your own right?

“To be honest, I didn’t really get the full effect of that at the time. We weren’t really doing any touring as the Ghetto Dwellas and I wasn’t really getting around too much. The music was just out there and people were listening. The internet wasn’t really that big at the time, so I couldn’t really see the size of the response we were getting out there. So I would get the information through A.G. and other members of D.I.T.C. who would tell me how well things were going with our music when they’d come back off tour and things like that. So I didn’t really get to experience that love until later on. I was just happy to have music out and to be doing what I was doing at that time. I mean, if I’d have got the full effect of what was going on in terms of how people were responding to our music it might have changed who I was at the time and, who knows, I might have been someone different today. But back then, I was doing music and living real life and going through real life s**t. I have two sons and my youngest son who’s twelve-years-old now is handicapped, so I had to deal with that. That was something that I had to be there for. So at some points, my total focus wasn’t music. It was an in and out thing. So what I’m saying is, if I’d have known back then exactly how people were gravitating towards what we were doing and how big our following was, maybe I would have gone a little harder and I’d have been in a different situation today. I mean, it was kinda hard for me back then to see how things were growing from where I was at. I was dealing with real life at the time and it was kinda hard for me.”

Was there ever a full-length Ghetto Dwellas album project in the pipeline?

“There wasn’t really a plan for a full-length album or anything like that because I was dealing with what I was dealing with at the time. Which is partly why you might have started to hear me and Arty appearing separately on certain joints and different projects. That’s just how it was at the time and we weren’t really concentrating on recording a Ghetto Dwellas album. Arty had more time for the music at that point than I did. My eldest son is nineteen-years-old now. I had my first son in 1994 and me and my wife were together for that whole time. Arty had a kid as well but he kinda had a break because his daughter lived with her mother so he was able to be in a lot of places and get a lot of stuff done. But I was dealing with other things. So the Ghetto Dwellas album was never really the focus for all of us. We just wanted to do music and I did it whenever I could. I tried to get on as many projects as I could and was always around but my focus wasn’t always on music even though it was something that was always in my heart.”

Was it difficult for you to step back considering the momentum you’d been building?

“Don’t get me wrong, whenever I was away from what was going on with the crew, I was still doing music. I always made sure my sword stayed sharp in-case I ever came across a battle or something. I mean, the only hardship that came out of that was seeing what maybe I could have been doing after the fact. But that’s normal for everybody. Whenever you step away from something and you see what you’re missing, you always feel some kinda way. But that’s also what kept me loving music. I never want to stop doing music. But if there’s something that I need to deal with at the time for me to make sure that I can continue to feed myself and my family, then I’m going to do that. I mean, if I don’t take care of myself then I can’t do music. But D.I.T.C is my family, so there was never hard feelings from anyone about me doing what I had to do back then. It was always love and I could always walk back through the door when I was able to make music. I could always call my brothers about anything because aside from the music D.I.T.C. is about friendship. I mean, I look on these dudes like they’re my family. That’s Uncle Finesse right there and my big brothers Showbiz and A.G. They know my family and I know their families. They were always there for me.”

When Party Arty passed away unexpectedly in 2008 did you consider stepping away from music or was it a case of you feeling that you had to continue to honour his memory?

“Absolutely. That’s exactly how I felt. At first I had to step back and look at the situation and really deal with what had happened. Arty was like my ear, y’know. If Arty told me something was dope, then it was dope. Couldn’t anyone else tell me any different. If Arty told me something was dope, then I didn’t care what the rest of the world was saying. I mean, I really lost my best friend. But I had to recover from that and I knew the music was something that I needed to continue to do for him, it was something that I needed to do for me, it was something that I needed to do for us because we both loved to make music. I know he’s looking down on me right now happy that I’m still doing what I’m doing. I’m still doing what we started and it’s never gonna stop. Music is a part of my life and that’s never going to end. Hip-Hop is always going to be in my life.”

Bringing things up-to-date, what’s the status of the Barbury’N project you were working on with Milano and Majestic Gage?

“When you’re doing the group thing it’s kinda hard because it never seems to work exactly how you want it to work. At this point, we all thought it would be better to each do music on our own time because it wasn’t working trying to get everyone together with different schedules that just weren’t matching up. So we felt that we would all be more effective musically just working on our own music and doing what we do for ourselves. Milano felt the same way and Gage is still working with Showbiz on his new project along with A. Bless and a new cat Tashane. So Gage is doing that right there, I’m focusing on my solo projects and Milano has his new mixtape coming as well. We wanted to do the group thing first and then branch off to do our solo stuff but, like I said, trying to get three schedules to match is kinda hard so we had to flip it around.”

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So what can people expect from the “Paraphernalia” mixtape you’re about to drop?

“It’s eighty percent original music. I’ve got Showbiz producing on there along with Drawzilla and E. Blaze. There’s only three freestyle tracks on there. Out of the thirteen tracks on the mixtape, ten of them are original. I’m basically giving away an album with this project, you could say. Then after this I’ve got my official album project dropping at the top of next year.”

That album is going to be produced entirely by Ray West, right?

“Yeah, he’s doing all of the production on there. Ray is so unique with what he does. You can tell that there’s a lot of heart that goes into the music he makes. He’s not really influenced by what other people are doing and he’s genuinely doing something unique. It’s Hip-Hop and you can’t ask for no more than that when you’re working on a project. It’s just good music. I love Ray West, man. But the album itself is going to feature me talking about different things that people can relate to. I’m a narrator and I want people to really feel me in their soul and be like, ‘Damn, I know what this dude is going through.’ That’s what you’re going to get on the album, straight real s**t about real situations that hopefully might help cats on the other side of the world get through some s**t that they need to get through. I want to be able to relate to people and I want people to be able to relate to me.”

As a Bronx emcee making music today do you feel a responsibility to both preserve the history and further the legacy of the birthplace of Hip-Hop?

“I think we’re holding on to the culture and the authenticity of Hip-Hop. We’ve got a greater respect for it than a lot of dudes do. When you hear an emcee coming from the Bronx, there’s normally a lyrical thing going on. I mean, I wouldn’t feel right switching sides at this point (laughs). It’s just not in my blood to do that. I mean, music is worldwide now and the game has changed so much that we’ll probably never get back to the music being as authentic as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean that I have to let it go. There’s always going to be someone out there who’s looking for some real Hip-Hop s**t and who wants to know about what’s happening out in these streets instead of what’s happening in the clubs. That’s what I’m interested in knowing about. I want to know what’s happening in these streets right now. I want to know what’s happening in that project building over there on the tenth floor in that corner apartment. What’s happening in there? People are still going through the same struggles. Those things don’t change. But not everyone has to like what I do. I just want to do this and take care of my family off of it. I don’t have to be popular or have millions of dollars. I just want to be comfortable, be happy and live long. If I can do that through music and reach the people that I need to reach then I’m happy with that.”

Ryan Proctor

Follow D-Flow on Twitter – @DFlowDITC – and lookout for the mixtape “Paraphernalia” dropping June 7th on DatPiff.Com.

Show & A.G. ft. D-Flow, Wali World, Party Arty & Method Man – “Got The Flava” (Payday Records / 1995)

1998 88HipHop.Com freestyle featuring D-Flow, Party Arty, A.G. and Big L.

Barbury’N (D-Flow, Milano Constantine & Majestic Gage) – “Living At Still” (Mugshot Music / 2011)

Dancin’ In The Rain EP Trailer – Ray West / Party Arty / A.G.

Bronx-bred producer Ray West continues the “Pianos In The Projects” vinyl series with the release of his latest Red Apples seven-inch featuring D.I.T.C. veteran A.G. and the late, great Party Arty.

 

New Joint – Showbiz & A.G. / Party Arty

Showbiz & A.G. ft. Party Arty – “All Time Greats” (DITC Records / 2012)

More atmospheric Rotten Apple theme music from the Bronx duo’s forthcoming album “Mugshot Music”.

Old To The New Q&A – Ray West

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).”

Ryan Proctor

“LUV NY” is out now on Ascetic Music.

LUV NY ft. A.G. & Roc Marciano – “Egyptology” (Ascetic Music / 2012)

 

Rest In Peace – Party Arty

The Ghetto Dwellas – “Ghett0 Dwellas” ( BBP / 2005 )

Rest in peace to Ghetto Dwellas member and D.I.T.C. affiliate Party Arty who passed away earlier this week following heart problems.