Tag Archives: Sampling

Old To The New Q&A – Keith Science

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Although he’s been making beats since the 90s, New Jersey-based producer Keith Science might not be a familiar name to many. Keeping his talents under the radar from everyone other than his closest friends and family, Science has only been making his unique brand of sample-based boom-bap production available to the masses for the last couple of years.

Aside from dropping his debut instrumental project “Vessels Of Thought Volume II” in 2012, the NJ beat junkie has also worked with Kool Keith and the UK’s very own Mista Spyce of The Brotherhood fame.

Keith’s latest release, the hypnotic “Hypothalamus”, finds the talented music man once again putting his own spin on the traditional sounds of East Coast Hip-Hop with sublime results.

Here, Science discusses his passion for 90s Hip-Hop, the art of sampling and his personal approach to making music.

How were you initially introduced to Hip-Hop?

“Okay, well I’ve been a musician my entire life, y’know. When I was growing-up my dad was a blues guitarist and my uncle, who was real close with the family, he was a rock guitarist. So I grew-up primarily as a guitarist, playing different styles of music, and I really always wanted to keep the range of music that I listened to as diverse as possible. As a musician, I was constantly looking for something to inspire me. I was definitely listening to rap music as I was growing-up in the 80s and you had “Yo! MTV Raps” on all the time and I would watch that. But then when I heard what was happening in Hip-Hop in the early-90s, it hit me like a ton of bricks. That early-90s East Coast feel is just such a magical sound and I’d never really heard anything like that before. It was just so captivating and so creative. The music I was hearing gave me this unbelievable feeling compared to anything that I’d ever listened to before. Now, this was probably when I was about eighteen-years-old. That’s when I really fell head over heels in love with Hip-Hop. I mean, before that I’d been playing the guitar, writing my own music, and that really seemed like it was the direction I was going to go in. But then when I really got into Hip-Hop, it just changed everything.”

Can you remember some of those first early-90s albums you heard that really gave you that feeling you mentioned?

“Absolutely. The first album that comes to mind is “The Low End Theory” by A Tribe Called Quest. I was just glued to that one instantly. But the album that really did it for me and made me a Hip-Hop fan for life was Gang Starr’s “Daily Operation”. When I heard that it just changed everything. I can’t even really explain it. I mean, first of all, it just sounded so different to the other Hip-Hop records that I was listening to at the time. It was Premier, y’know (laughs). He’s the greatest ever. But there’s something about that “Daily Operation” album, even to this day, that just reminds me of why I love this music and why I want to be involved with it.”


For me, “Daily Operation” is the album that bridged the gap between the straight jazz loops Premier had been using on the first two Gang Starr albums and the boom-bap sound that became his trademark…

“Absolutely. I think you’re right on that. Also, that album is deceptively simple. It’s so simple but also so rich in terms of the creativity heard on it. “Daily Operation” is an album that literally gives me chills. I mean, if you listen to something off it like “Soliloquy Of Chaos”, that track in particular just puts you in such a trance the second it comes on and you don’t want it stop, y’know (laughs). It’s amazing.”

So as you were really starting to immerse yourself in Hip-Hop, was it a journey you were making on your own or did you also have friends at the time who were listening to the music?

“It was actually my friends who helped me get into it. A friend of mine had moved from our town to another town in New Jersey and over there they were listening to a lot of Hip-Hop. So he would come back with a lot of tapes and we would be listening to this stuff and were just being blown away by it. Some of the guys in this group of friends had already been listening to Hip-Hop and really studying it. I mean, I would see my friends all huddling around the stereo listening to a new Hip-Hop track and they would really be speaking in-depth about each different sound and the way the samples had been layered, all this kinda stuff. It really just blew my mind because before then I’d never really seen anyone sit there and really analyse music like that. So it taught me a lot about how to approach the music when I did start making beats. Plus, with the musical experience I already had and being able to play various instruments, it was just a real natural progression to me.”

So is that where the Science part of your name comes from, seeing your friends really studying the music and then doing that yourself?

“Exactly. The name was definitely born out of that original group of friends I had back in the early-90s. It just came from me studying Hip-Hop and I really feel the stuff I learned from being around those guys at that time are lessons that I still apply when I’m making music today. Unfortunately, I don’t know if many people still listen to music and study it in that same way today. I think a lot of people now jump into this style of music without even attempting to study the history which I think is a huge mistake. But I definitely think there seems to be more of an interest in that old sound now among the newer generation that are coming up which is pretty amazing.”

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Speaking of studying the history, when you first started really listening to Hip-Hop in the early-90s were you aware of the rich heritage that New Jersey already had with the whole Flavor Unit movement, YZ, Poor Righteous Teachers etc?

“I kinda learnt about it as I went along. I mean, when I first got into the music I used to just study it all the time. I was so into it that I wanted to know everything about it. At one point, I was almost like a walking encyclopedia. Unfortunately, it’s not like that anymore as I can barely remember what I did yesterday (laughs). But there was a time when I was very dedicated to learning about the music and culture of Hip-Hop and making sure that anything I did didn’t violate the original principles.”

So did you start making beats almost immediately?

“Pretty much. What happened was, my uncle, who I mentioned earlier, had some old studio equipment. So back in the day he got hold of an old Tascam four-track cassette machine and he also got a couple of drum machines and a keyboard. So there was equipment around and I already knew how to work the stuff because I’d been using it for years. So when I started hanging-out with my group of friends who helped get me into Hip-Hop, one dude was an emcee and he wanted to make a beat. So he was asking me about it because he knew I had access to equipment. So I said I’d call my uncle up and see if he’d let us borrow some of the stuff. So my uncle let me borrow the four-track and the drum machines and my friend, who went by the name Swift Wisdom , he had a really cheap sampler. So we just started messing around and the first thing we did, I helped him make his beat because he already knew what he wanted to do and I knew how to use the equipment. So once that first beat was made, I was like, ‘You know what? I could learn how to do this and really go crazy with it.'”

Were you trying to shop beats at this point or were you really just keeping what you were doing within your own circle?

“Yeah, I was just keeping my beats within the crew. To be honest, I really didn’t feel like I was that good back then. I needed to learn and grow. I was still experimenting and it wasn’t really my time yet. Furthermore, on top of that, I really had bulls**t equipment (laughs). So it would have been really difficult for me to approach a big name emcee or something when I didn’t feel my beats were good enough. Or even if it was a good beat, it would have been made on crappy equipment so you wouldn’t have been able to record with it.”

Who would you say were some of your earliest influences when you started making beats?

“I’ve obviously gotta say DJ Premier as he was such a huge influence on me and there’s no way I’d even be able to do what I do today without what he did first. I was a huge Pete Rock fan, then there was Diamond D, Showbiz, Buckwild, all that D.I.T.C. stuff. Plus, all the Tribe stuff was a huge influence on me.”

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Those influences can still definitely be heard in your music today because you’re very much about drums but there’s often a lot of melody in there as well…

“No doubt. I can’t tell you’re listening, man. That really is my thing so I’m glad you noticed that. The type of beats that I really liked the most back in the 90s were the ones where the drums were really hard but there was a nice semi-friendly melody going on over that with the samples and everything. There’s just something about the marriage of those two things together that I really like. I mean, one beat that immediately comes to mind when I think about that is DJ Premier’s remix of Fat Joe’s “The S**t Is Real”. That beat is hard as hell but it’s got a nice melody behind it as well. So that’s something I always try to do. I mean, not all of my beats are melodic, but that is a huge part of what I do. I think being a musician by nature, I always try to make things sound as musical and as organic as possible.”

I think that’s always the challenge with instrumental Hip-Hop, for a producer to take it beyond just being a good beat for someone to rhyme over and to make music that stands on its own, keeps your interest and doesn’t make you think, ‘I wish there was an emcee on this…’

“Right, absolutely. You’re exactly right. You’ve got to have some substance in there. That’s one of the mistakes I think I made as a young producer, I didn’t have enough layers or changes in the music I was making. Now, I’ve come up with a formula that works for me and I really try to make a song out of every track I do, even though there are no vocals. That’s something that’s especially evident to me on this new project “Hypothalamus” compared to the previous album, “Vessels Of Thought Volume II”.”

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So were you producing consistently throughout the 90s? Is there any particular reason why you didn’t release any material during that time?

“That’s a good question and, to be honest with you, I did actually stop making beats for awhile. When Hip-Hop started to decline towards the end of the late-90s, I really started to get frustrated. I wasn’t happy about the direction the music was moving in and it made me lose interest. Also, around that time, I’d been doing a lot of music projects that included some stuff outside of Hip-Hop and I just felt burnt out. I felt like I didn’t even want to mess with music for awhile. Then my brother, who goes by the name DJ Uncut Raw, he and I got hold of some equipment at some point and we started making beats together. I mean, he’d got into it a little bit through being the younger brother watching me as we were growing-up. So we started working together and that was the first time I got an actual sampling drum machine. We built a studio in a friend’s house and were over there all the time. We had local emcees just coming through and we were just having fun with it. This was around the early-to-mid 2000s. Then I got to a point a couple of years ago where I decided that I wanted to try and formally release my music. So “Vessels Of Thought Volume II” kind of just started off with me making a beat-tape for me and my friends to listen to and a lot of people liked it, so I just ended-up formally pressing it up. I mean, I’m a pretty private guy. I’m not that person who’s trying to be all up in the cameras and everything. I’m just doing this because I love this music and I can’t sit back and just watch the art of sampling die.”

What is it about the actual act of sampling that really draws you in and keeps you feeling so passionate about it?

“The thing is, I use a really old style sampler and I do that for a reason. It’s because it has a certain, beautiful organic sound to it and that’s what really excites me about sampling. That sound is the sound of Hip-Hop. But it’s that whole process of sampling and achieving that sound that you’re hearing in your head that really excites me as well. I mean, a lot of people wouldn’t even want to touch the equipment I make my music on because that old equipment is hard to use (laughs). I mean, my new album “Hypothalamus” only has twelve tracks on it, but that album took me a whole year to make. I can’t be one of those people who pump out ten beats a day. I can’t do that. I’ll start a beat and maybe won’t go back to it until a month later when I’m really inspired by something or a particular idea grabs me. But to really answer your question, you can just do so many things when you’re sampling. The most exciting thing for me is to take sounds and try to make them sound completely different. I mean, the samples that I took from vinyl and used on the new album, you’ll never be able to figure out where I got them from (laughs). I don’t want to give away any tricks, but there’s so many things you can do with sampling and I really wish people would try to challenge themselves more and see what they can come up with. I think anyone doing this just needs to at least try and elevate themselves above what they’ve already heard being done. That’s how you end-up doing something creative. I mean, I love Hip-Hop more than other style of music but I’m open to listening to anything and I can be inspired by anything as long as it’s something that’s pure and great. Music speaks to you in general and if you want to be a good, well-rounded artist I think it’s important for you to listen to other genres and really study how different types of music are put together.”

What equipment do you use?

“I use an old Akai S2000 rack sampler for everything. If you look at the whole history of Akai, it’s probably the cheapest sampler they ever put out (laughs). But the reason I chose this machine is mainly because I didn’t know of anyone that was using it. Premier has the S950, Pete Rock did the SP12oo thing, but I wanted to use something that nobody else was using. So I decided to give this particular machine a shot. When I first started using it, the learning curve was definitely huge (laughs). It wasn’t pretty when I first started with that machine but I think I’ve got it now. I mean, I don’t use Pro-Tools or anything. This whole “Hypothalamus” album was mixed on my old analog recording console. If I could record to tape I would, but it’s just way too expensive at this point. But a lot of the equipment I use today is the stuff that was being used in studios back in the 90s. For me, it’s more fun sitting in front of a recording console than it is sitting in front of a computer screen with a mouse. I just think that all of this computer software used today makes it harder for people to differentiate themselves and really put their own character into their music. I mean, the way I work, it takes forever, but I run every single individual track in at its own time. So if I get the foundation of a beat down, before I go and record it I might sit there and mess with the sound of the bass drum for an hour or something (laughs). Then I’ll record just that track, then I’ll run in another track like the snare and layer it like that. So every single sound on my tracks gets attention. It takes forever and a lot of people wouldn’t want to do it like that, but that’s when you can have full control and really make what you’re doing musical.”

So do you think relying too heavily on computers whilst making music takes away from the creative process?

“It’s too easy to sound like everyone else when you’re involving computers too much in the recording process. I mean, I try to keep computers totally out of music if possible. Now, like I said, these days it’s too expensive to record on tape, so you have to stick with digital, but there are so many things that you can do to mess with samples and get a more organic sound than just relying on a computer. As I said, I don’t want to give away any secrets as it’s taken me twenty years to develop some of the techniques I use, but I just think producers out there should challenge themselves more and explore the other things that can be done with samples rather than just doing the obvious stuff. There are a lot of great rappers out there and I think that when it comes to a lot of people who have complaints about Hip-Hop today, it’s really the production that’s ruining it for them. I just think that a lot of the computer-based production being heard today sounds very sterile and stiff and doesn’t have that loose, organic bounce to it like it should. Those are the kind of things I try to focus on specifically when I’m making my records.”

You definitely have a real talent for creating particular moods in your music and really taking the listener somewhere on each track…

“When I make my music I just try and take my brain to another universe or something (laughs). I don’t even really know how to explain it. But it really feels good to hear people say that because it means they’re really listening and getting what I’m doing. I mean, my music is designed that way and it is made to tap into certain moods and hopefully take you somewhere as you’re listening to it. That is the ultimate goal, to create some type of emotion that really sticks with you after you’ve listened to the music.”

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It was actually the work you did in 2012 with the UK’s Mista Spyce that put me on to you. How did you hook-up with him?

“First of all, big shout to Mista Spyce! To be honest with you, he’s really part of the reason that “Vessels Of Thought Volume II” even happened in the first place. I started posting some beats online, some of which would actually end up on “Vessels…”, and Spyce was one of the first guys to really listen and give me the nod of approval. He immediately wanted to work together, which we did and we made a couple of great tracks. Spyce was really encouraging and it kinda helped give me the confidence to formally release something and he continues to be supportive.”

If you could choose one emcee to work with, is there anyone in particular who immediately comes to mind?

“Now, this is a totally unoriginal answer and probably every producer will say the same thing, but I would definitely like to work with Nas. As far as I’m concerned he’s the greatest and there’s nothing else really to talk about (laughs). Nas is the type of emcee who can really light up any type of track. Someone else I’d like to work with is Jeru The Damaja. I’d really like to do something with him. But in terms of working with different emcees, we’ll see what happens in the future as a lot of people really still don’t know that I’m even out there yet. I hope I do get to work with more emcees but it’s tough to find the right people to work with. I mean, I’m not an emcee, but the one thing I will say about my beats is that I can see how some of them might not be considered easy to rap on (laughs). But as much as I enjoy making instrumentals, when you put vocals on a track it just takes it somewhere else and opens up a whole new level of creativity.”

And when it comes to other producers, is there anyone who you really think is setting the standard today?

“Hell yeah, The Alchemist. I really love what he’s doing and he really seems to always think outside the box. He’s just a true original in my opinion. I mean, I loved that s**t that he did with Prodigy on their “Albert Einstein” album. That album is really creative to me. The first two tracks on that album are just so good and you really get pulled in quick. That s**t is just hard! But musically Alchemist is just so unpredictable and I’m always excited to hear what he’s going to do next. Alchemist is definitely someone who, to me, is elevating the art of sampling and really showing what you can do with it.”

Now that “Hypothalamus” is out, do you have any goals for the next twelve months?

“All I can really hope for is that this album lets people know that I’m out there and if people want to work together then come and see me (laughs). I mean, after getting “Hypothalamus” out there, I haven’t even really made a beat in the last few months. I’ve been having to take care of a lot of business stuff with getting the vinyl finished and everything. But my girlfriend always tells me that the creative process needs a rest sometimes and I’m kinda in that rest period right now (laughs). I can’t wait to get back in that studio but I just have to wait until that inspiration hits me. I mean, sometimes it’s like that and you just have to wait until it’s the right time. For many years I felt like I was just making music for myself, so it’s great to have reached a point where people are receiving the music in the way it was intended to be received. It just makes me want to work harder.”

Ryan Proctor

Follow Keith Science on Twitter – @KeithScience 

Check “Vessels Of Thought Volume II” and “Hypothalamus” on BandCamp.

Keith Science – “Logic Gates” (Central Wax Records / 2014)

DVD Review – Beat Diggin’

“Beat Diggin’ – The Original Diggin’ Documentary”

(Busybody Films / CrateEscapeRecords.Com / 2012)

Filmed in 1997 during a visit to the Hip-Hop mecca of New York City, this documentary from Danish film-maker Jesper Jensen is a visual time-capsule that captures a handful of the East Coast’s most revered producers demonstrating, explaining and celebrating the craft of beat science at the tail-end of Hip-Hop’s golden-era period.

In today’s digital age, the collecting of vinyl, obsession with beat-digging and idea of spending hours inside cramped record stores may seem like alien concepts to some, with more and more music now being consumed and created online. But regardless of how much technology may have influenced the way some of today’s Hip-Hop is made, the importance of preserving the culture’s history and studying the original methods of the greats is as critical as ever, with “Beat Diggin'” providing an insight into the love shared by some of your favourite producers for the simple pleasure of sifting through stacks of vinyl to find that one perfect sample just waiting to be turned into Hip-Hop gold.

Included here in both its original, rawer 1998 version and an expanded 2003 re-edit, the film finds Jensen following the likes of Da Beatminerz, Showbiz, Diamond D, Buckwild and Godfather Don in the Rotten Apple, both record shopping and in the studio, as they continue on their endless search for the perfect beat.

Mr. Walt talks through his process of finding potential sample material, which includes smelling the vinyl, whilst Godfather Don discusses his dislike of what he calls “pick-up truck production”, which the talented individual defines as a technique used by producers who try to take drums and sounds from too many different sources, leading to a cluttered, disjointed product rather than a cohesive collage of music that is able to stir particular emotions in the listener.

John DeSalvo of NYC’s legendary Bleecker Bob’s Records describes the sometimes complex relationship between vinyl vendor and Hip-Hop production clientele, explaining how the purchases of dusty-fingered diggers influenced the type of music the store would look to stock, as well as admitting his surprise at how some of the best beats sampled by customers were found on some of the least impressive records.

With the documentary being filmed at a time when the unique, secretive sampling practices utilised by those seen here to create classics from the likes of Black Moon and O.C. were starting to be overshadowed by the radio-friendly loops of the Puffy-led shiny-suit era, questions regarding the integrity of some of the music coming from the East Coast at that moment are met with respectful yet forceful answers. Evil Dee explains how much of his enjoyment in making music is to be found in the challenge of finding new, inventive ways to sample in order to disguise and change the original material, whilst Showbiz states that he always follows the advice given to him by DJ Premier when it comes to making beats, which is simply to keep it Hip-Hop.

Another highlight is studio footage of Mr. Walt  working with independent favourites Shadez Of Brooklyn on their album which, unfortunately, would never get to see the light of day. Yet the passion and ferocity heard in the voices of the crew as they spit their rugged rhymes over bass-heavy Beatminerz production stands as a reminder of the hunger that can always be found in the Hip-Hop underground.

Both interesting and entertaining, “Beat Diggin'” stands as an important snapshot of the drive, creativity and dedication shared by many at a point in Hip-Hop’s history when true heads were striving to keep the essence of the culture alive as the music started to feel the tight grip of mainstream commercialism.

Ryan Proctor

“Beat Diggin'” DVD Trailer

All Samples Cleared – Questlove

Questlove of The Roots gives a thoughtful and considered opinion on the recent Lupe Fiasco / Pete Rock dispute over “They Reminisce Over You”.

Old To The New Q&A – Danny Spice

After approximately a decade of writing rhymes, digging for breaks and working with the likes of Lewis Parker, Hitchin-based producer-on-the-mic Danny Spice is finally starting to see the recognition his musical talents deserve.

A student of the golden-age production sound, Spice’s warm blend of heavy drums and well-chosen samples recently saw him take away the “King Of The Beats” title at one of Pritt Kalsi’s infamous production-based competition events, which in turn has led to the release of a dope collectable seven-inch single featuring Juice Crew legend Craig G.

With his album “King Amongst Thieves” in the pipeline, Danny Spice talks here about his early material, keeping old-school production traditions alive in the digital age and why he’ll never lift a sample from a reissue.

Explain how you got into the music game and what drew you towards the production side of things…

“I’ve always collected records from a young age. I’ve got an older cousin who used to deejay and he would be cutting things up and I was introduced to a lot of things through watching him as a kid as he’s about twenty years older than me. My dad was an avid record collector as well and when I started getting into Hip-Hop he showed me a lot of the music that was being sampled in what I was listening to. As a kid getting into the music you don’t initially realise exactly what’s being sampled and what’s not, so he put me on to a lot of stuff that way. I think the first sample he ever showed me was on a Tom Tom Club record or something (laughs). So to be honest, that’s where my whole fascination with beats and how they’re put together really began. Primarily I was known as an emcee, but I’ve always been drawn to the beats and the turntables really.”

So was the rhyming something you started doing out of necessity because you wanted vocals on your tracks?

“The reason I started to rhyme to be honest was because I couldn’t actually afford the production equipment to do what I really wanted to do, but I knew I  wanted to do something. The first thing I actually did was deejaying. I had turntables and learnt how to scratch, beat-juggle and things like that. The main reason I started rhyming was because I only had belt-drive turntables to start with and they wore out (laughs). I had to do something so I just started rhyming. As I progressed and started to get more into it I must admit there was a bit of fame chasing going on (laughs). I enjoyed being the front man and having my voice out there but the beats were always my passion regardless of what else I was doing.”

So without equipment how did you start to learn the production ropes?

“I released my first record “Home Truths” in 2004 and started recording that late 2002 / early 2003. I didn’t produce any of that, it was all produced by Capital P (aka DJ Pelt) who used to be in the group 499 and was local to me (note: 499 had a deal with Profile Records in the mid-90s). I met P through a mutual friend and we started working together. But even though I wasn’t producing it myself I was very involved in that side of it. P would always have the drums down ready but then I would sit there going through breaks with him choosing what samples I wanted to rhyme over. I chose all the cuts that were used, whether it was me doing it or P. I started messing with the Akai S-950 in his studio and getting a feel for working with equipment. Me and P don’t really talk much anymore as we fell out over a few things as time passed, creative differences or whatever. But I do have to give Capital P props because he did show me a lot about how to record music in a studio environment and get the best out of the equipment you’re working with. He definitely had a lot of knowledge and was really dope at flipping samples. That first record was recorded onto a Tascam eight-track and then dumped onto tape. It was very hands-on and felt very organic which was something that I really liked. I’m not really a computer person and I find it very tedious sitting in front of a screen for hours so putting that first record together that way just felt right. It felt like I was actually making music and doing it in a similar way to how producers I looked up to like a Pete Rock would have done it at some point. I’d worked with producers before P but it always seemed to be more sitting in front of a laptop working with a fancy soundcard and some production software rather than feeling like you were actually getting your hands dirty doing it the more organic way. So working with Capital P was definitely a turning point for me.”

There’s definitely been a debate in recent years about the differences between working with traditional sampling equipment in the studio and using computers as the main production tool – do you feel there is a difference in the sound of the finished product?

“You’re right, there has been a massive debate surrounding that. To me, Hip-Hop has always been about making the most out of whatever you have available to you. I remember reading an interview with Havoc of Mobb Deep and he was saying that he used to make loops using the pause-tape method when he started because he didn’t have any equipment. I watched an interview with DJ Mark The 45 King and he was saying that he used to splice reels of tape together to make his beats initially because he coudn’t afford a 950 or an SP-1200. So nowadays, a lot of these kids that are using cracked copies of Reason or whatever on their computer are still using that same ethic to make the most of what they have available to them. So in that sense, the ethics behind it still comes from Hip-Hop but those ethics then aren’t translating into the finished product. I don’t care what any little geek says, you can hear the difference between beats that have been made on an SP or an MPC and beats that have been made on a computer. Personally, I find making music more fun having the hands-on approach with the sampling equipment and to me the end result just feels different. I like that organic feel and some of the imperfections in the sound that can come from working that way. I mean, at the end of the day, I’m not going to say that I don’t like any music that’s made only using a computer because if something’s flipped well than it’s flipped well. I mean, I don’t really like the sound the MPC gives you to be honest and I own two of them. But I’d never say I won’t listen to a track that’s been made on the MPC (laughs). Some of Pete Rock’s best work was done on the MPC-2000XL and I’m really feeling Damu The Fudgemunk who uses that as well. It’s all about the man behind the machine rather than the machine itself and if something is done well and sounds good then it sounds good. It comes down to personal preference and I know what type of sound makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and as a producer I know the equipment I prefer to use to get that sound.”

How do you approach digging for your samples?

“I’m real anal with it (laughs). I won’t even sample off a record unless it’s an original copy. I just won’t sample off a reissue. I know people out there sample off MP3s and if you’re putting it into the SP or MPC and the end result is dope then I probably wouldn’t be able to tell that you did it that way, but personally, I like to bring that element of fun to it and have the challenge of going out looking for an original sample and then using it. Digging is just part of the process that I enjoy. I’ve always felt that to be a good producer you have to have been a record collector first and have that knowledge of good music and breaks before you can do anything and I hope that when people hear my music they can catch that vibe that tells them I’m all about getting your fingers dusty and searching through those crackly old records in a crate somewhere. I’ve got a couple of good spots that I use for funk 45s and albums which are always reasonably priced so I’ll pay them a visit but then for some of the more obscure library type records that are a little harder to find I might use eBay but I only really try to use that if there’s a particular record that I’m after. But I’m not a producer who believes that once a sample’s been used that it should then be left alone. No Hip-Hop would ever get made if that was the case. So when I dig, if I happen to find a record that’s been sampled before and I like it then I’ll still pick it up and see if I can flip it a different way. For me a sample is like an instrument and in the same way that a guitar can be played a different way by members of different bands, I believe a sample can be used in different ways with a completely different end result. Like, I remember there was this one piece of music I was after that I’d heard used in “The Professionals” TV series and I finally ended up getting the record from eBay and then Lewis Parker used the same sample for the “Man Up” track from “The Puzzle”. I was heartbroken when I heard that (laughs). But I will still flip that sample to see what I can make out of it. It’s all part of the challenge of making music.”

What made you decide to enter Pritt Kalsi’s most recent King Of The Beats competition?

“I was a bit reluctant to enter the competition at first. I’d seen the first film with the Mr. Bongo boys and Juliano so I knew what the idea behind it was all about but I didn’t know if I wanted to go into a competition I might lose which could then tarnish my name. I was worried about the impact that might have down the line on people supporting the music I was planning on releasing at the time. I’d just got some new beats from Lewis Parker and I was working on putting something out. But then there was a setback with getting that project finished and I didn’t really have anything else to do at the time so I started thinking maybe I should do the competition. A close friend of mine Mark was murdered around that time and another friend of mine was saying that I should enter the competition for him and it got me really fired up. My friend’s funeral was actually the day before I went to go and do the dig and it was really on my mind because he used to deejay for me and really pushed me to do my music. I really wanted to win it for Mark and I went into it guns blazing. I contacted Pritt and told him I wanted to enter so we arranged everything from there. We all had to meet in Notting Hill at Soul & Dance Exchange at about ten in the morning and I didn’t even know who I was going to be up against but I was in full battle mode (laughs). I was showing off a little telling the other guys that I was going to take them out and that I’d win (laughs). To be honest, it became evident pretty early on in the dig that there knowledge of music and records wasn’t the greatest. Obviously, you’re given the £20 to go in and find your records with and I was doing things like finding a nice drum break, seeing there was another copy of the same record and buying both so that nobody else could see I had it and then get it themselves (laughs). I was really using some tactics.”

Well they obviously worked because you won…

“Yeah,  I did the event a week later and won it. There were a few people in the crowd who disagreed though. I don’t know if maybe people felt I was being a bit too cocky beforehand but I was just going into it with that battle mentality and I was determined to win. I think that’s one of the problems that the British Hip-Hop scene has had is that a lot of people don’t seem to have that in-it-to-win-it mentality like they do in the States. Or at least, some people over here don’t like to see people with that attitude. But at the end of the day it was a battle and that’s how I approached the event. The rules of the competition state that you can put a verse or cuts on your finished beat so I’d called the track “Who’s The King?” and my rhymes covered as much of the competition process as I could within sixteen bars talking about how I was the first one to arrive at the shop on the day of the dig and things like that. Pritt had printed up this fake beat-digger’s money and there was a line in my verse that went “Pritt gimme £20 to spend until I’m bust…” and when I was onstage and that part came on I pulled out the money, screwed it up and threw it at the camera (laughs). I was trying to put on a show and was in the zone but I felt afterwards that people were looking at me like I was being really arrogant or something which wasn’t the case. If I hadn’t of won I’d have been humble and given credit where it was due. But I definitely wanted to win (laughs).”

How did you make the link with Craig G for your new single “King Of The Beat”?

“When you win King Of The Beats you’re allowed to take away the crate of records that everyone got during the dig for the competion. So my idea was to take them away and make a concept EP only using those records. I started doing that but then decided it was sounding too good to just leave as a handful of tracks so I went into my own collection and put together some more beats with the intention of making a full album called “King Amongst Thieves”. I was on the look out for good American rappers to get on the album from the offset and I went to see Diamond D playing a deejay set in Brixton and Craig G was just there. Pritt was there filming it and he introduced me to Craig and I told him I’d really like to work with him. He was a real gent and we stayed in touch and then when it came time for me to think about putting together a lead single for the album I decided that was the one I wanted to get Craig on. I sent him the beat, told him the idea behind the track and Craig was open to me being very involved in what he was writing because as he said it’s not a Craig G track produced by Danny Spice, it’s a Danny Spice track featuring Craig G. So we talked about me being in the King Of The Beats competition, what equipment I use, the concept behind the album and Craig just took all of that away and incorporated it into the rhymes you hear on the single. I’m not really big on the whole internet collaboration thing but if you’re looking to work with artists in the States it’s really the only way to do it but I’d only work that way with artists I’ve actually got some sort of prior relationship with. Dizzy Dustin from Ugly Duckling is also on the album and he’s someone I met when I supported them during a UK tour, plus Oxygen from Sputnik Brown is on there as well. I wouldn’t want it to be a rent-a-rapper situation where you’re emailing back and forth with someone you’ve never even spoken to. But as I don’t have any other British emcees on the album other than myself it was the only way to put the album together the way I envisioned it.”

Was that out of choice or circumstance that you have no other British emcees on the project?

“It was out of choice. I did record with some British rappers for the album but it wasn’t working the way I wanted it to. I think certain beats need certain voices and most of the tracks I came up with for the album I felt just needed that smoother American flow. British rappers tend to be a little harsher with their delivery and even on the tracks I’m rhyming on I’ve had to adapt my flow a little so that it blends more with the vibe of the music. Plus, to be honest, I’ve never really been the biggest British Hip-Hop fan. Lewis Parker was always one of my idols before I’d even worked with him, I’ve got all of Jehst’s records and Mark B & Blade’s album “The Unknown” was genius work. So there’s definitely good British Hip-Hop out there but I’ve always been more into that East Coast, New York boom-bap Hip-Hop.”

Are you expecting criticism for not having any UK emcees on the album?

“Of course I am. But this is my debut album and I really am living out a childhood dream doing this and those East Coast influences that drew me to Hip-Hop in the first place are a massive part of my sound as an artist. So at the end of the day, I don’t really care about the criticisms because I’m doing something that I want to do.”

Ryan Proctor

The single “King Of The Beat” is out now on COG / KOTB with the album “King Amongst Thieves” to be released in the near future.

Photos courtesy of Andy Higgs.

The LifeLine (Part One) – Blackberry Jones / YU

The first installment of DC-based producer Blackberry Jones’ online beatmaking experiment featuring Diamond District emcee YU.

Words From Blackberry Jones:

“The LifeLine was a show we used to do on ‘Black Broadway’ (9th & U streets) in DC. It was a live production session where my brothers and myself would collect samples every week and throw them all together in a mixing pot. We would chop the samples live and make beats on the fly. Artists and instrumental collaborators alike would be open to join in with words, concepts and sounds. It was magic at every event. This is my attempt to bring that energy to the online/interactive realm. This first demonstration should give you a hint, seeing as though each installment should differ greatly from the next.”

All Samples Cleared – The Alchemist

RecordKingz.Com interview with The Alchemist in conjunction with ChessMoveCartel.Com.

The ? Remainz – DJ Premier

iKeepsIt100.Com interview with DJ Premier.

Dusty Fingers – Buckwild

Recordkingz TV interview with D.I.T.C. affiliate Buckwild.

Part One

Part Two

Jazz T Interview (Originally Posted On UKHH.Com Oct 1st 2008)

As a founding member of Surrey’s Diversion Tactics crew, Jazz T has more than proven himself over the years as both a talented DJ and an astute producer. From the dusty-fingered beats of DT’s debut 2002 album “Pubs, Drunks And Hip-Hop” to the unapologetically raw tracks heard on T’s new solo project “All City Kings”, the former UK ITF DJ champion has consistently remained faithful to the true-school Hip-Hop blueprint he first discovered back in the 80s. This unwavering approach to his craft has led to Jazz working with a diverse selection of like-minded individuals, from Bronx-bred underground icon Percee P to gifted homegrown mic-wrecker Kashmere.

Currently keeping busy supplying the beats at London’s respected open-mic event End Of The Weak, Jazz T recently tore himself away from sifting through old sci-fi soundtracks for new sample material to talk about his new album, production techniques, and future plans.

It’s been six years since the release of the first Diversion Tactics album “Pubs, Drunks And Hip-Hop”. What are your thoughts looking back on that project?

We didn’t initially intend on doing an album at all. We’d dropped the original Diversion Tactics EP and had got together a tour with J-Zone and one of the guys who booked us for a show was Rob Luis from Tru Thoughts. Our manager passed him a copy of the EP and he was really interested in our music. Rob wanted to put us out as one of the first Zebra Traffic releases, and he already knew me from doing cuts on Mark B’s first EP with MCM and Big Ted.

After the tour we had a proper meeting with Rob and he told us that, at the time, he wasn’t really up for doing just 12″ singles and EPs, he wanted us to do a whole album. So we really had to get it together. Fortunately, me, a guy called Optiv, who was from a drum & bass crew called Cause For Concern, and Zygote had all been making a lot of beats together for quite a long period of time. So we gave the beats to Chubby, Barron ACJ and Squeaky and then talked about the direction of the tracks.

We’d already been doing a lot of shows together so we had a strong chemistry as a group, but I’d say the whole album was kinda thrown together, but I think that gave the project a real spontaneous feel. I think when you plan too much it can take away from the natural vibe of the music you’re making. We never actually thought we’d ever have the chance to record an album, so a lot of energy went into “Pubs, Drunks And Hip-Hop”.

At what point did you make the transition from being a DJ to considering yourself a producer?

I started DJ-ing when I was 15-years-old. I originally lived in Watford, then I moved to Birmingham, then I came to Surrey. I had a couple of mates at school who had turntables, not Technics or anything, they were just straight-up hi-fi decks, but I got into DJ-ing through that.

I soon started doing pause-button tapes and multi-tracking using a couple of cassette decks, which is really when I’d say I first started trying to produce. At the time samplers and studios were extremely expensive, so I really had to work with the equipment I had. I’d say I was about 16-years-old when I actually started thinking like a producer in my head with the intention of going somewhere with the music.

How would you say your production style has developed over the years?

The Diversion Tactics album was the result of fifteen years of being into Hip-Hop, so the sound of the album reflected the music we came up listening to. But if you listen to tracks like “Hong Kong” and “Yanking Off”, you can also hear the beginnings of the music we’re making now.

In terms of the beats, we’re still using breaks and always will use breaks. On occasion we’ll sample Zygote drumming, but we’re still using that live drum sound that you’ll find on an old break. We were heavy on the jazz tip on the first Diversion Tactics album, whereas now we’re sampling stuff from anywhere.

Obviously my production techniques have become more advanced, but we’re still working within that boom-bap true-school sound. We’ve got a lot better as producers and engineers and we’re able to do a lot more, so that’s apparent in our sound now. But the motivation behind the music is still the same.

You just mentioned that you’ll always sample from breaks in your music – how much is digging for old vinyl still a part of what you do?

Digging is still a very large part of what I do. Basically, whenever I see a record shop, I’m in there. I actually work in a record shop in Guildford, so I’m surrounded by records four days a week anyway (laughs). We’re lucky enough in Guildford to have two collectors record stores, which I spend a lot of time in, so we’re kinda spoiled. If there’s something that I know I want and I want it quickly, then I’ll buy it off the internet. But the excitement of actually digging for records and finding stuff no-one else has is still a big part of it for me.

Where do you stand on the debate surrounding producers downloading material to sample from the internet rather than going out and digging for it the traditional way?

A lot of people just haven’t got the patience nowadays. A friend of mine who makes drum & bass was telling me the other day how he’s just downloaded thirty gigs worth of samples. I’m of the attitude that I’ll always dig, so personally I don’t download stuff to sample. I’ll always sample from either live instruments that we’ve recorded or breaks that we’ve found. I won’t limit myself from only sampling from vinyl though, because if you find something on CD that’s worth sampling you should do. But at the end of the day, if you’ve got skills, whether or not you’re able to go out and dig shouldn’t really hold you back.

Is there a particular idea or concept behind your new album “All City Kings”?

Well, a lot of people don’t really know who I am and I’ve never really pushed for people to know me on a certain level. I’m not the type of person to boast about what I’m doing, so I’ve always kinda been in the background doing my thing. I felt that maybe it was time for people to know a bit more about Jazz T and for me to develop myself more as an artist.

I wanted to use the new album to showcase the artists I’ve worked with in the past, either through producing or touring as a show DJ. So that’s why you hear everyone on the album from Percee P and Tim Dog to Kashmere.

“All City Kings” was a way of me showing what I’ve achieved in my career so far while also making a tight Hip-Hop album and defining myself as an artist in my own right as opposed to just being known as a DJ.

How much input did you have on the lyrical direction of each track?

To be honest, I just let everyone do their own thing really. I felt that the tone and sound of the project had already been set by the beats I’d chosen to use. Because I’d already worked with everyone on the album previously, I was confident that I could let them all do their thing and it would come out the way I was hoping it would.

Considering the mainstream popularity of Hip-Hop today, have you even been tempted to take your music in a more commercial direction?

I make music because I love music, but at the same time I also make records to sell records. Now, in terms of me making something that’s formulated to appeal to the masses, it just wouldn’t work. When it comes to making pop stuff that the masses love, that’s a skill in itself, so even if I tried to produce those type of records I really don’t think that I could do it.

Although a lot of people knock the more commercial stuff, to make something that appeals to everyone across the board does take something. So I don’t think that’s a direction I could ever go in, not just because it’s not something I believe in, but also because it’s a skill I don’t think I have.

Plus, I think producers who do flit between whatever’s trendy at a particular time cut their shelf-life as they end-up not really standing for anything, as they alienate their original fans and the newer fans are only interested for a short time until the next trend comes along.

What advice would you give to young producers getting into the game today?

I’d definitely suggest that they take the time to study music and listen to what’s come before them as that can only have a positive effect on their own production. I also think any young producer should spend some time digging, looking for breaks and old records, not necessarily to limit themselves to only sampling from vinyl, but just to have that experience. Also, as a producer you really need to have a picture in your head of what you want the end result of a track to sound like. It’s no good going into making a track with absolutely no idea of where you want to go with the music.

An obvious question here, but if you could produce your ultimate posse cut, which artists would you want to collaborate with?

I won’t mention any of my own guys as they’re obvious choices, so we’ll leave them out for the time being (laughs). But I’d definitely have Bionic of London Posse on there, Kool G. Rap, Godfather Don, Freddie Foxxx, Roots Manuva, EPMD and MF Doom. I think that’d be a nice little line-up.

So what’s next for Jazz T?

The plan with Diversion Tactics has always been to do another album and we’re now about halfway through recording the new project. It’s sounding nice and I’m really happy with it. All the tracks are done so now Chubby’s just working on the lyrics. We were trying to get the album out this year, but then Chubb started writing for another Bobba Fresh project, so we’re looking at next year now.

Me and Zygote are doing a project with Kashmere, which as a piece of music is some next level business. We’re also doing a Boot compilation, as a lot of the singles that came out on the label have never been released on CD. So we’re putting out an album that will include previously released Boot tracks from artists like Robot Boy and HUG, plus some unreleased stuff from Kashmere, Verb T and Louie G.

So right now, I’m definitely staying very busy.

Ryan Proctor

Breaking Atoms Again – Large Professor

Extra P drops the science on his forthcoming album “Main Source”.

Who I Be – Katalyst

The Australian-based producer talks about his early forays into making music and the concept behind his new album “What’s Happening” (see review below).


Kings Of The Beats – Pete Rock / Just Blaze / 9th Wonder

Footage from last weekend’s Guitar Center Sessions event in Los Angeles.


Old To The New Q&A – Mr. Thing

Having gained notoriety in the late-90s as a member of the formidable Scratch Perverts deejay collective, London-based deck-wrecker Mr. Thing has always refused to allow the glare of the industry spotlight to distract him from his musical goals, with the 2000 DMC champ choosing instead to remain true to his passion for playing (and making) good quality Hip-Hop, as well as his addiction to unearthing dusty, often forgotten breaks.

As a producer Thing has worked successfully with homegrown emcees such as Yungun and Life, whilst as a deejay the down-to-earth vinyl junkie’s near-flawless skills have seen him in constant demand at club nights up and down the UK.

It’s the combination of Thing’s ear for great music and technical skill that no doubt encouraged the BBE label to offer him the opportunity to put together his own compilation, the recently released “Strange Breaks & Mr. Thing”. Having already collaborated with the legendary DJ Premier on the label’s 2005 release “The Kings Of Hip-Hop”, it was only right that the imprint should give the respected wax-spinner the chance to helm a solo project.

An eclectic mix of gems discovered during countless hours of digging, bartering and haggling in record stores, charity shops and garage sales across the globe, “Strange Breaks…” is definitely the work of an individual who can hear a back-of-the-stack banger from a mile away.

Here, Mr. Thing momentarily blows the dust off his fingers to give Old To The New a brief insight into the art of looking for the perfect beat.

What was your selection process when it came to choosing the tracks that ended up on “Strange Breaks…”?

When Pete from BBE first put the idea to me about doing the comp I had to go in for a meeting about it, so I decided to make up a compilation CD of the kind of thing I thought would be cool, like some covers of famous breaks, funky reggae tunes, funky rock breaks, all kinds of odd stuff I liked and had found over the years. I gave it to Pete at the meeting, and literally about 75% of what was on that CD made it onto the comp. We had clearance issues with some of the more obscure stuff that’s now owned by major labels so I went back and dug out a few more tracks. I wanted to put a broad mix of stuff on the album so it wasn’t all one kind of thing, so you’ve got some library music, reggae, funk, rock, soul, and even religious music on there! It’s not so much mega rare “trophy” records, but just interesting stuff that you could find if you went out digging and were persistent enough.

You’re an experienced crate digger now – what tips would you offer people who want to start digging themselves?

I would start the way I started out, going through the record collections of your family and friends. I was pretty lucky because three of my uncles had pretty big and diverse collections for me to check out. A lot of it is detective work and you get to learn what labels, musicians and producers to look out for. I’m a cover versions nut, so I always look for versions of tunes that I liked in the first place and sometimes you get results that way. Always take a portable record player with you, although some dealers or shop owners are a bit funny about you listening to stuff (“You either want it or you don’t!”), so it’s good to ask if it’s cool to use them. But if not and the record’s cheap enough, it’s always worth a go!

Yungun & Mr. Thing – “Forget Me Not” (Silent Soundz / 2006)

Do you have any amusing digging stories you could share?

I have a gross story from driving home from digging the other day. I was stopped at a roundabout and I looked over and saw a woman having a dump at the side of the road with a can of super strength in her hand in the middle of the day!

But other than that I always seem to attract nutters on a dig, especially in charity shops, but they’re not really funny, just scary! One guy clocked me in one shop and was really staring at me. I went to the next shop and he was there, same thing again, then the next shop. So I went somewhere else in the town, went to another spot and he was in there too and then he started shouting at me to stop following him around! He was a big f**ker too, so I just left and let him get on with it. The mad thing was that he was buying books not records!

Are there any records out there that you’re still looking for?

I recently got my top want “Moody” by Gentle Rain, or whichever way round it really is as I don’t know two people who can tell me for certain. I was looking for that for maybe fifteen years! But I’ve got a little book I take out with me that’s got my wants list in, but there’s a couple of big records I’m really after which are “Ball Of Eyes” by the 70s Belgian band Placebo, and I’d also love to replace my copy of “Sexy Coffee Pot” by Tony Alvon & The Belairs – I had that but some bastard stole it! They’re both three figure records and I just can’t find them cheap enough and can’t afford the record dealer prices.

Mr Thing In The Mix On DJ MK’s Kiss FM Rap Show

What’s your most treasured piece of vinyl and why?

I think my Gentle Rain LP just because I was looking for it for so long. But other than that, at the total other end of the collecting spectrum is my Al Green “I’m Still In Love With You” LP. That was one of the first things I found when I used to dig at my local indoor market in Sevenoaks. It’s totally battered and someone’s written all over the cover, but it’s one of the first and best break LPs I found before I started to really find good good stuff. I’ve found and sold many copies of it since but I’ve always kept my original one.

Any new production projects coming up?

I’ve just finished up a track for Jehst’s next album which I’m really happy with, and I’ve got two tracks with Life that are next on my to-do list. I’ve got a few other bits on the go that are still only in the demo stage, but my main ongoing project is the mixtape I’m doing with Yungun. We’re just getting the last couple of bits mixed, then I’ll mix it and we’re gonna put it out there for free as a promo thing. It’s basically a bunch of remixes and new versions of songs off our “Grown Man Business” LP and a few exclusives. When we’re done with it you’ll be the first to know!

Ryan Proctor

Breaks & Beats – Chic / The Sugarhill Gang

Canada’s PopBoxTV talks to legendary producer Nile Rodgers about the influence of Chic’s massive disco hit “Good Times” on The Sugarhill Gang’s classic 1979 single “Rapper’s Delight”.

Ghost Interview (Originally Posted On UKHH.Com Feb 27th 2008)


If you spend more time than is probably healthy reading Hip-Hop-related interviews on the internet, you’ll already know that you could bet your collection of rare rap singles on the likelihood of your favourite emcee, deejay and / or producer using at least one or more of the stock phrases that nowadays appear to be industry-standard responses during said Q&As. You’ll hear MC Kill-A-Man talking about how he’s “keeping it real”, DJ Radio Payola will insist his show is all about “what the streets want”, and Mr. I’ve-Only-Been-Making-Beats-Since-I-Got-A-MySpace-Page will tell you how his forthcoming album is sure to “take the game to the next level”. However, in all honesty, once the overzealous statements and hyperbole have subsided and it’s time to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, few individuals are actually able to deliver what they’ve promised.

All of which puts one of the UK’s finest producers, Ghost, in a bit of a tricky position. As you’ll be able to tell after reading the interview below, 2008 is all about progression and moving up a creative gear as far as the London-based beat junkie is concerned. Not content with resting on his laurels following the release of his impressive 2006 debut long-player “Seldom Seen Often Heard”, Ghost has been back in the lab working not just on new music, but also on new directions in which to take his sound. But will the finished product back up his claims of sonic elevation?

With three full-length projects in the pipeline, Ghost is determined to cover a lot of musical ground over the coming months. First, there’s the Invisible Inc set, a collaborative effort with lyrical allies Kashmere and Verb T that Ghost promises will be “something different”. Then there’s the Lingua Franca album with female vocalist Devorah, a release that fans of Ghost’s traditional Hip-Hop sound might not have seen coming, but that the producer says was all about “challenging” himself. Last but certainly not least, there’s the official solo follow-up to “Seldom Seen…”, yet judging by Ghost’s description of the album, even that might not be exactly what’s expected from him.

So the individual responsible for some of the best homegrown Hip-Hop in recent times has definitely set himself some high-standards to live up to, let alone exceed. But unlike those who litter their interviews with empty promises of quality product, Ghost’s previous musical track record and sincere respect for his craft indicates that, in this instance, actions are likely to speak louder than words.

It’s been a couple of years now since the release of “Seldom Seen Often Heard”. In hindsight are you happy with how the album was received and did it achieve what you hoped it would?

No on both counts (laughs). I was really happy to get the album out there and compared to a lot of other releases it did do really well and I’m thankful for that. But I guess what I look at is, had I done that album five years sooner maybe there would’ve been more sales because obviously the whole download thing has taken off and it’s affected everybody.

But looking back it’s all a learning experience and by putting the album out when I did it’s taught me a lot about how the industry works. So a lot of positive things came out of the album and I certainly don’t look back on it in a negative light, but it is disappointing when you know a project had the potential to do better than it did. Still, I can look back and say that I did it and not a lot of people even get that far.

I understand you’ve gained a pretty loyal fan base out in Japan.

Yeah, we got a licensing deal for the album out there. It was weird because I started noticing that people were picking up on the singles over there and they were selling really well. Then we had about three or four labels get in touch saying they wanted to put the album out. So Skeg at Breakin’ Bread hooked up whatever he hooked up and that was that really.

Obviously it’s extremely pleasing to know your music is being appreciated outside of the UK and going forward it looks like the Japanese thing will be an ongoing relationship, which is massive to me. They seem to have an amazing taste in music out there, and without wanting to sound like I’m bigging myself up too much, they seem to be into music that’s got some heart and soul in it, and that’s what I like to think I do.

The Japanese audience is very particular about what they want and I feel very lucky and privileged that my music is in demand out there. The next step is to try to get over there to do some shows and promotion.

Ghost ft. Abstract Rude – “Basic Instinct” (Breakin Bread / 2006)

Your recent single “It’s All Love” has introduced a slightly different side to Ghost than perhaps people have heard before – does the single represent something of a turning point for you as a producer?

In some ways, yes. With that single I wanted to do something a bit different because I’m not someone who can just continually do the same thing over and over again. I like to challenge myself and try new things. The a-side is a real party tune, which is something I’ve never done before. It’s not my regular thing because it’s quite happy and upbeat and very much dancefloor-orientated. The b-side, again, was me wanting to do something outside the box. I still think both tracks have a Ghost sound to them, but within slightly different styles of music than people are used to hearing from me.

It’s always difficult because the Hip-Hop crowd might listen to the single and say ‘What the f**k is he doing? Why isn’t he still doing straight-up Hip-Hop?’ I’m not trying to move away from doing Hip-Hop at all, but as a producer I want to be able to express myself musically and that sometimes means trying different things.

With that in mind, compared to the Hip-Hop scene you came up in, do you think there even is a UK Hip-Hop scene nowadays in the traditional sense of the term?

That’s a very good question (long pause). It’s hard to know what’s going on anymore, really. There doesn’t appear to be much of a structure left. I’ve actually been discussing this with a few people recently and I think the UK scene got to a good level a few years back and I can’t quite put my finger on what happened, but it feels like the ground just fell from beneath it. But that said, there are still artists out there making good British Hip-Hop whose aim is to keep pushing it, keep getting shows, and hopefully ride through the storm a little bit.

It is difficult though, because if you look at what’s happened to the majority of record shops just in London that supported Hip-Hop, the main ones have gone. It feels like the scene has dropped down a little bit. But sometimes that needs to happen so it can regroup, pick itself up and move forward again. But I don’t think the music media here in the UK has ever really taken British Hip-Hop seriously and it’s always been viewed as just a knock-off of the American stuff. Which is really disappointing because there are artists in the UK who’ve made some amazing music but have had to really struggle to get it heard. UK Hip-Hop has never really been in fashion.

Many people are of the opinion that there’s a real generation gap developing between those UK Hip-Hop acts who came up embracing the culture as well as the music, and those younger artists who grew-up with Hip-Hop being this huge money-making mainstream machine. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s a weird situation. I grew-up on the culture of Hip-Hop and it taught me a helluva lot of things, but you don’t see that as much anymore. But you can’t necessarily blame the younger listeners coming up because that’s the type of Hip-Hop the media chucks at them. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I don’t think all hope is lost. I think the key is to try to embrace some of the newer sounds but keep the roots in Hip-Hop, which is partly what we’ve tried to do with the Invisible Inc project that’s coming out.

Ghost ft. Verb T, Kashmere & Asaviour – “Seldom Seen Often Heard” (Breakin Bread / 2006)

So how did the Invisible Inc project with Kashmere and Verb T come about? 

After I’d done “Seldom Seen Often Heard” I was sat down twiddling my thumbs thinking about what I was going to do next. “Seldom Seen…” was the culmination of years of me making music, so once I’d put that out I felt that I wanted to try and do something a bit different. The same can be said for Kashmere and Verb T as well in the sense that we’d all finished our respective albums and were looking to do something new. I’d kinda been playing around with some new sounds and I played them some of the music I’d been making and they both said ‘Yeah, we really like this.’

I’m trying to keep the production quite contemporary sounding but with some depth. A lot of the synth-based Hip-Hop stuff you hear can be very cheesy and simplified, but I wanted to use that sound for the Invisible Inc album but give it a Ghost feel, which is exactly what I’ve done. Everything on the album has been played and the only things I’ve sampled are the drums. It’s still very much a Hip-Hop album, but it’s us taking a fresh look at the music.

We’ve been out doing shows together for about three years now, so we’ve all got to know each other really well and have become close friends. We all sort of came up through the scene together at a similar time, and what became very apparent when we started talking about doing a project together was that we’d all reached the same point of wanting to do something different.

I went into this Invisible Inc project without feeling any pressure about what people expect from me. So I definitely felt freer putting this album together and the result of that is a project that I think will stand out from what everyone else is doing. I mean, we might put the album out and perhaps nobody will bite on it, but at least we can sit back and say we’ve recorded an album that doesn’t sound like anything anyone else has done in this country. That to me is a very important thing.

It almost sounds as if recording the Invisible Inc material has been a rejuvenating experience for you.

What I found was that when I was getting caught up in the business side of releasing music, it just took my enjoyment out of making music. It dragged me down so much that I started questioning why I was involved in doing what I was doing. The business definitely took the love out of it for me for a long time. But after I’d had a bit of a breather, went back, and started to think of fresh things to do I rediscovered my love for making music again. Of course, I’d love to make enough money to put food on my table and keep a roof over my head, but I’m not going out there thinking ‘I need to sell records’ anymore. It’s gone back to me just doing it because I love it.

How does the Lingua Franca project you have coming out differ from the Invisible Inc album?

I think the Lingua Franca project is going to be more appealing to some people than the Invisible Inc album will be. Basically it’s a bunch of tracks that I gave to Devorah to write to, and it’s a really nice soulful album. Again, I wanted to try something different and work with a singer on an entire album.

We’ve been busy over the last five months or so rehearsing with a band, so that when we go out to perform we can do all of the tunes live. So it’ll be a drummer, a guitar player, keyboardist, a bass player, and me twiddling about onstage with some knobs (laughs).

Again, it’s all about challenging myself, but still keeping the heart of Hip-Hop involved in the music. The album is a bit happier than anything I’ve done before, but I think that’s perhaps because I’m a happier person now. I think that both the Lingua Franca and Invisible Inc albums have a very positive feel to them. I have high hopes for both projects and they both sound very good.

So with Lingua Franca and Invisible Inc keeping you busy, when can we expect to see a new Ghost solo album?

It’s already done. I didn’t do much else in 2007 but I did record a load of new music (laughs). What I will say about the new album is that it’s more instrumental than vocal this time around. It’s a step further than “Seldom Seen…”.

Sometimes people lose focus of what you can do as a producer when you work with a lot of different guest artists, so I wanted to show that there’s enough depth to my production for me to be able to handle tracks on my own.

If “Seldom Seen Often Heard” is the album that really put you on the map as a producer, what are you hoping the Invisible Inc and Lingua Franca projects will do for your career?

Firstly, I just hope they actually come out this year (laughs). I’m hoping that both projects will allow me to get out and do more live shows, as that’s something I love to do. But I really hope that after hearing both projects people will say ‘Sh*t! Ghost has got a few strings to his bow.’ I’d also like the haters to realise that good music can come out of the UK Hip-Hop scene and that we should be taken seriously. Plus, it would be nice to get some new fans and be able to expand on what we’ve already done.

Ryan Proctor

Behind The Boards – DJ Khalil

The West Coast producer previews a new Nas track (“What It Is”) and discusses working with Dr. Dre on “Detox”.

In The Lab (Part 1) – Easy Mo Bee / Biggie Smalls


Having worked with the likes of Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes, the legendary Easy Mo Bee recalls how he helped kick-start the career of Biggie Smalls by producing the rap icon’s debut single, featured on the 1993 film soundtrack “Who’s The Man?”.

The Notorious B.I.G – “Party And Bullsh*t” (Uptown Records / 1993)

At the time I made that track in the early-90s sampling jazz was still very popular. I put that beat together but didn’t actually have Biggie in mind when I was making it. But when I played it to him he loved it, but it was just a beat with no hook or concept.

Back then Big was spending a lot of time with me as we only lived a few blocks apart in Brooklyn. I’d pick him up with Lil’ Cease and we’d just drive around listening to music and smoking. I used to play a lot of my own beats but then I’d also play other stuff to try and put Biggie onto old soul and stuff like that. This particular day, I played an old Last Poets tape and at the end of one of their routines it goes ‘And you know, and I know, that ni**ers love party and bullsh*t.’ As soon as Biggie heard that he was like, ‘I wanna f**k with that!’ The Last Poets were a very socially conscious group, so he took what was essentially a positive message and totally flipped it to have a different meaning on his own record. Also, remember the part of the song where Biggie says ‘And a f**kin’ fight broke out…’, then the music cuts off and you can hear all the party noise? To record those sounds Biggie had everyone in the studio get in the vocal booth and just throw mad sh*t around, tables, chairs, everything (laughs).

When I first heard the finished track I thought that, as hard as it was, it was kinda quirky. Biggie had a lot of humour in his lyrics, even though he was talking about some gangsta sh*t. Looking back on it now though, I can sum “Party And Bullsh*t” up in one word – unbelievable. The recording of that track was so spontaneous and nothing about it was planned, so it’s unbelievable to me that 15 years later people still lose it when they hear it.

As told to Ryan Proctor 

The Art Of Beat Making – Vinroc

Triple Threat DJs / 5th Platoon member Vinroc captures his creative process in this extremely well put together clip. Here’s the man himself to explain the idea behind the video in his own words:

“This is a short film/music video I made in support of an instrumental album I’m working on called “The Revealing”. The joint is called “Believe”. I made this at a time when I needed to believe in myself and find my inner strength.I’m sure a lot of you have been down that road. So it was a trip when I heard this sample and my frame of mind during that moment: It just lined up. Like it was delivered to me. What came out in the process, and the “feel of the beat”-It was a perfect translation. Anyway, sorry for the sob story…I love makin beats . Please enjoy:)” – Vinroc