Tag Archives: Tim Dog

Bronx Keeps Creating It… – The Almighty $amhill Reminisces On A Selection Of BX Classics

samhill pic

Those of you out there who keep your ear close to the gritty Hip-Hop underground will no doubt already be familiar with Bronx-bred emcee The Almighty $amhill.

Making a memorable contribution to the P Brothers’ 2008 album “The Gas” alongside the likes of Milano Constantine and Roc Marciano, the Rotten Apple representative has also dropped a number of impressive street tracks whilst working on various official projects, mixing his honest and unapologetically raw approach to lyricism with rugged, soul-drenched production.

Having recently released his free EP project “The Preface” via Unkut.Com, the East Coast talent is currently putting the finishing touches to his debut album “The $amhill Story” which is scheduled to drop this summer and promises more of the wordsmith’s trademark New York straight talk.

Whilst $am was taking a break from the lab, I threw him a selection of my own personal favourite tracks to have emerged from the birthplace of Hip-Hop to see what memories, thoughts and opinions they may provoke.

The Bronx is back…

Ultramagnetic MC’s – “Ego Trippin'” (Next Plateau Records /1986)

$amhill: “That s**t was crazy! What’s funny about Ultramagnetic MC’s is that them dudes is from my neighbourhood. Some them is from 159th Street & Washington and 3rd Avenue. I remember I used to see Ced Gee over there all time as a little boy. I would hear “Ego Trippin'” at the jams in the park and people would lose their minds. What was crazy though, was that dudes like Ultramagnetic were people I’d see in the community before I saw them on TV or anything like that. You’d see them around and people would be like, ‘Yo, that’s the dude from Ultramagnetic MC’s.’ So for me to then see them on Video Music Box after that was kinda bugged out. But that song was so dope to me because of that f**kin’ beat. It was just so knockin’! The drums were crazy and then that piano came in. That song was literally magnetic. It drew you to it. If you were a music head then you were drawn to “Ego Trippin'” not just because of the s**t that they were saying on there, but how they were saying it over that beat. That song made you want to move. I mean, Hip-Hop back then was like how soul music used to be, where you felt it from the inside first. What also bugged me out about that record was that when I first heard it, it kinda seemed like they were going at Run DMC with the lines about Peter Piper. I remember listening to that as a little boy thinking, ‘Hold on?! Are they shi**ing on Run DMC?!’ (laughs) It was songs like “Ego Trippin'” that made me realise that I like my music hardcore.”

Boogie-Down Productions – “The Bridge Is Over” (B-Boy Records / 1987)

$amhill: “I was a little boy when that record came out, man. That was one of those songs I’d hear when they used to have the jams in the park and everyone would bring their s**t out and plug into the street-light. But man, when that beat would come on with that piano, that s**t would be pandemonium. I had two older sisters and a brother and they would take me to the jams and I’d break away from them just acting crazy in the park taking it all in. I was young at the time and I didn’t really understand that KRS was beefin’ with Marley Marl and them, but the overall feel of that record was incredible. It was only after I saw the video on Video Music Box and then started to listen to Marley Marl and Red Alert on the radio that I realised what was happening with them.

But that song was so powerful because it was representing where we were from and it was also letting people know that Hip-Hop started in The Bronx and you’ll respect that or we’ll run right through you. With me growing-up in Hip-Hop, I had to recognise that that song was monumental. I mean, KRS was really disrespecting people on “The Bridge Is Over” (laughs).

I was in elementary school when that song dropped and rap was the consistent topic everyday that everyone would be talking about. So off of us talking about “The Bridge Is Over”, I also started to learn more about MC Shan, Craig G, Roxanne Shante and other people that were doing this music in other places. So I had to recognise that there were other people doing Hip-Hop in other parts of New York City. But from that moment right there I’ve always loved KRS-One as an emcee. I mean, he was born in Brooklyn but he’s always represented The Bronx and seeing him do that back then let me know early on that you have to represent where you’re from in this rap s**t and really be proud of it.”

Just-Ice – “Going Way Back” (Fresh Records / 1987)

$amhill: “That record is a classic. Around the time that “Going Way Back” came out the park jams were slowly dying down in The Bronx because people were getting killed and there’d always be something going on like a shootout. So the jams in the park were really getting shut down. So now you’d be hearing records first on the radio with Mr. Magic’s show and Red Alert and then a couple of weeks later Ralph McDaniels would be playing the video on Video Music Box.

Now, the thing with Just-Ice is that he was a street ni**a. He’s a dude that would handle what he needed to handle in his own way. A lot of people didn’t know that about Just-Ice then unless you were from The Bronx. But to hear him on that record talking about how he was there when certain things happened in The Bronx, Zulu Nation, this, that and a third, it really felt like he was teaching me and putting me onto some s**t that I really didn’t know about. But that record was so hardcore and Just-Ice always used to wear those leather rasta hats which he had on in the video. The part I always remember is when Just-Ice says ‘Yo KRS! What’s the purpose of you stopping me?’ (laughs).

The beat to that song was so strong and his voice was so aggressive but at the same time he was teaching me. It reminded me in some ways of someone like a Farrakhan, because he was always very aggressive in delivering his lessons. I learnt from listening to Farrakhan that if you’re not aggressive in the way you deliver your message then a lot of people won’t take you seriously. So when Just-Ice was telling me on “Going Way Back” about certain blocks and how if you don’t know what happened with this person then you wasn’t there, I had to listen to him because he was both commanding and demanding your attention. He was giving you a history lesson that you had to pay attention to.”

Tim Dog – “F**k Compton” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)

$amhill: “That record had a major impact on me and my whole entire neighbourhood because Tim Dog lived just a couple of buildings away from me. But the funny s**t about that is that I didn’t actually know that then (laughs). I guess the older dudes I was hanging around with already knew Tim Dog from around the way and of course he already had the Ultra affiliation. But when that song came out it was wild aggressive, it was ignorant, it was disrespectful, and we loved it (laughs). We loved everything about it. But at first it confused me why he was dissing certain people on that record because I f**ked with N.W.A.. I loved aggressive, hardcore sounding s**t and at the time N.W.A. was the epitome of that type of style and the way they were coming with it was just so real. I mean, back then, as a little boy I used to think rappers like the Geto Boys and N.W.A . would really come to my mother’s house and  kill everybody there (laughs). Like, seeing the video to N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” I thought Ice Cube was going to bust through the TV screen and kill somebody. Then when Tim Dog came out and was like ‘F**k them! This is where I’m from and this is what I’m about’ I was like, ‘Yooooo! Hold on, man Who is this?’

I mean, I wasn’t taking sides or none of that, but Tim Dog was really staking his claim and it was hot! I remember buggin’ out how he dissed Michel’le like that because it was just so uncalled for (laughs). I also remember buggin’ over how he actually came on the record with ‘Awwww shit…’ I was like, ‘How do you just come on a record with ‘Awwww shit…’?’ I was a kid at the time and curse words intrigued me, I was always cursing someone out, so when a ni**a would be cursing everyone out that would be the funniest s**t in the world to me. So when Tim Dog did that on “F**k Compton” I thought the dude had lost his mind but I loved it. And it was more than just being about the fact that Tim Dog was from my block, it was about the fact that he had to have some f**kin’ balls to do what he did on that record. He went at the whole of Compton! I mean, I couldn’t be mad at DJ Quik, MC Eiht or any of those dudes for going back at him or dissing the Bronx. I mean, I liked DJ Quik and MC Eiht. Their music wasn’t getting played on New York radio at the time but their videos would be on Video Music Box and I was like, ‘Yo, these dudes have really got a story to tell.’ But Tim Dog was just like, ‘F**k your story!’ He really didn’t care (laughs).

After that I had to get “Penicillin On Wax” when it came out. I mean, everybody in my mother’s neighbourhood was listening to “Penicillin On Wax” because Tim Dog was from the block and that album was crazy! Nobody could say that Tim Dog was wack. But what I took from Tim Dog back then was the realisation that you can do exactly what you want to do with your life and not give a f**k about what anyone else has to say about it.”

Showbiz & A.G. – “Soul Clap” (Mercury Records / 1992)

$amhill: “Well, I can honestly say that Showbiz & A.G. really made me want to be $amhill even more and pursue this music. I used to hear “Soul Clap” on the radio and I remember the EP they had that it was on because I bought it. I s**t you not, I used to buy everything on bootleg back then (laughs). The bootleg man used to be up the block next to McRogers, which was my neighbourhood’s bootleg McDonalds (laughs). So the tape man would be there and sell everything for two dollars. I used to have thousands of those tapes. But I got Showbiz & A.G.’s first s**t with “Soul Clap” on there and that record was crazy to me. The bassline on there was just so breathtaking. I’d be walking to school listening to those dudes in my headphones and I loved what they were doing.

To me, A.G. is the epitome of the evolving emcee. From how he rhymed on Lord Finesse’s first album “Funky Technician”, to how he rhymed on his own early s**t, to how he rhymes now, you can hear that was somebody who wanted to get better every time he came out. A.G. didn’t take what he did as a joke. You could tell he wanted people to know rhyming was what he loved to do and that came across in the music. A.G. is definitely the epitome of an emcee to me.

As for Showbiz, I remember the first time I saw their video for “Fat Pockets” on Video Music Box and then went outside afterwards and saw him on the f**kin’ corner, that s**t changed my life forever. It made me realise that even with all the music stuff, Showbiz and A.G. were just regular dudes from my community. Seeing them around like that really made me follow everything they did and it let me know that I could do it to just by being me. But around that time, I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, I’d be at house parties and when “Soul Clap” would come on the whole place would go crazy because that song was so funky.

I have such a profound respect for both of them. A.G.’s brother Wally World is one of my producers who I’ve done a whole bunch of stuff with. Two years ago I had about a two or three hour conversation with Showbiz in his studio. This dude I used to be cool with took me down there to meet him because I was always saying that Showbiz & A.G. were the reason why I was doing this. So I was introduced to Showbiz and we ended up having a three hour conversation about God and spirituality. He asked to hear my music and he respected what I was doing. I was telling him how I used to see him around the neighbourhood when I was a little boy and how he would have all this jewellery on and be looking so fly, and he was just sat there staring at me like, ‘Wow! Just off of me being me, this young ni**a is doing what he’s doing now.’ But I really respected Showbiz for taking the time to hear me out and to speak to me about the things that we did.

Same thing with A.G., I remember seeing him at a radio station a couple of years ago and he was saying how if something isn’t about the truth then he doesn’t want to speak about it because he’s so connected to wanting to spread the knowledge of God and that s**t literally sent chills down my spine.

But to me, Showbiz & A.G. have never done anything wack. They’ve consistently evolved and that’s what I’ve always loved about them. It would be a dream come true for me to do a song with Show & A.G. just off the strength of the impact those two men had on my life before they ever even knew anything about me.”

Fat Joe – “Flow Joe” (Relativity Records / 1993)

$amhill: “It’s funny that you say that s**t because “Flow Joe” is one of my personal favourites as well. I remember seeing when Fat Joe was filming that video. But it really impacted me because I remember when Red Alert used to play a short version of the song as a promo on his radio show with the ‘Everybody know Fat Joe’s in town…’ verse. I used to sit there and wait for that promo to come on when I’d be listening to the radio. That Diamond D beat was so hardcore and the way it dropped with the kick and the snare was just incredible to me. Back then you could buy the cassette maxi-singles with the instrumental on it and I picked that up and used to play that s**t all the time.

That s**t was so dope to me. I mean, what Fat Joe was saying on there in his lyrics was good and it was cool for what it was, but the s**t that was just so crazy about that track was that beat. The music was just so cinematic and I don’t know how many people got that same feeling from it that I did. It made me want to get into Fat Joe even more and see where he was coming from with his music. I mean, the founding members of D.I.T.C. being from the Bronx just made such an impression on me because I would just see these dudes walking around. It just made me believe that if I wanted to do this music thing then I could do it.

But going back to that track, if anyone ever asked me what my favourite Fat Joe tracks were I would have to say “Flow Joe” and “Respect Mine” off the second album. I always preferred the version of “Flow Joe” they did the video for rather than the one that was on the first album. But that album “Represent” was crazy. I remember I always wanted to rap over the beat that was used on the interlude “My Man Ski”. When I was in high-school there was a talent show and I was going to be in it and the beat on that interlude was so dope so I looped it up on the tape-deck and I was going to do a freestyle to it. But then I got kicked out of the show because I was being stupid (laughs).”

Money Boss Players – “Crap Game” (Warning Records / 1996)

$amhill: “Hmmmm. It’s like this man, the best thing about Money Boss Players is Lord Tariq and I’ma leave it at that. You can print that. The best thing about Money Boss is Lord Tariq and that’s all I have to say on it. It is what it is. I just don’t really f**k with that. I got respect for Lord Tariq and I’ve learnt that Lord Tariq has respect for me and my music and I’ll leave it at that.”

Big Pun – “I’m Not A Player” (Loud Records / 1997)

$amhill: “The original mix of that song is crazy. Big Pun was an intriguing dude to me. I mean, I never knew him personally, I just knew of him from the community. You remember the remix video where he’s riding around on that scooter? Pun would actually ride around the Bronx on that f**kin’ scooter. I would see Pun’s big ass on that scooter riding around Home Street, Boston Road, Forest Projects, I would see him do that. But the original version of that song was so crazy to me because I love soul music and the way that O’Jays sample was flipped was so dope. Then on top of that I had to respect the lyrical ability of Big Pun as well. I remember thinking how he reminded me of Kool G. Rap when I first heard him, not to where he was biting his style, but like Big L and Lord Finesse, Pun just enhanced that style and was the next generation. I just thought he was f**kin’ nice.

When Pun came out Hip-Hop was getting into some other s**t but he was still able to remain himself and keep it street. I mean, that “Capital Punishment” album was off-the-wall! You could tell there were certain tracks on there where Pun was trying to reach for that commercial appeal, but overall he did his thing on there. It always seemed to me that Pun knew what he wanted to do with his music and he did exactly that. I mean, Pun passed away in 2000, it’s now thirteen years after his death and we still haven’t had another new emcee come through from anywhere and make that type of impact to say I’m one of those next ni**as who’s going to be respected as legendary status.”

Ryan Proctor

Follow $amhill on Twitter @MoeMiller96 and lookout for the full album “The $amhill Story” coming later this year.

Ultimate Bronx Bomber: A Tribute To Tim Dog Mixtape Download – Psykhomantus

Tim Dog Tribute Front

UK-based deejay Psykhomantus of A Few Good Men drops a nice collection of hardcore BX bangers in memory of the late, great Tim Dog – pay your respects here.

Dog’s Gonna Getcha – Ten Of Tim Dog’s Finest Moments (RIP)

tim dog pic

Waking up this morning to the news that Ultramagnetic MC’s affiliate Tim Dog had passed away yesterday following a diabetes-related seizure definitely had me wiping the sleep out of my eyes with the quickness.

The Bronx-bred emcee wasn’t the most popular lyricist in the rap game or even the most talented, but for anyone who was listening to Hip-Hop in the late-80s / early-90s he definitely ranks as one of the most memorable. From his one-man war against N.W.A., DJ Quik and various other West Coast gangsta rappers of the early-90s to his entertaining reunion with Kool Keith some years later as the duo Ultra, Tim Dog had a way with words that was equal parts deadpan comedy, bullying bluster and New York emcee bravado.

Tim’s blunt delivery played a huge part in ensuring that his threats of violence, sexual boasts and claims of lyrical superiority always left a mark, with the Dog’s classic 1991 debut solo album “Penicillin On Wax” ranking as one of Hip-Hop’s most hardcore albums yet also one of its most humorous.

Listening to thunderous tracks such as “Step To Me” and “I Ain’t Takin’ No Shorts”, you got the impression that laughing with Tim was fine, but laughing at the D-O-G would result in a good ol-fashioned Bronx-style beatdown.

Although the wider world will no doubt remember Timothy Blair for his 2012 appearance on NBC’s Dateline as a result of his legal issues surrounding an online dating scam, the Hip-Hop world will always remember Tim Dog as one of the game’s most charismatic characters to ever hold a microphone.

So, step to the rear and cheer, Tim Dog will always be here thanks to his many unforgettable appearances on vinyl, tape and CD.

RIP (1 January 1967 – 14 February 2013).

“A Chorus Line” (Next Plateau Records / 1989)

Setting off this classic Ced Gee-produced Ultramagnetic b-side, the Bronx bomber delivered a tongue-twisting verse which officially introduced the Dog’s gruff persona to the world amidst a barrage of what would become Tim’s trademark WWF-style threats, including telling rappers who wanted to play to “go ride a sleigh” and how he’d “bone your girl Emily”. Woo! Hot damn he’s great!

“F**k Compton” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)

I can still remember the first time I heard this in the summer of 91 on Tim Westwood’s Capital Rap Show here in the UK. Although it was obviously heavily-edited for radio-play, that didn’t do anything to reduce the initial shock value of hearing Tim Dog not just taking shots at N.W.A., but taking on the whole of Compton! And that Michel’le impersonation is still priceless over twenty years later.

“Intro” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)

The N.W.A. bashing continued on the opening track from Tim’s classic “Pencillin On Wax” album. After a batch of amusing answerphone-style messages from the likes of gangsta-limpin’ Big Earl from Chicago and Houston-based groupie Sheila, the Dog dropped perhaps one of his most stinging West Coast disses, criticising the LA crew for “wearing Raider hats when the Giants won Super Bowl” over their own beat.

“I’ll Wax Anybody” (Ruffhouse Records / 1991)

Baiting sucker emcees to show Tim their “weaky style” before he responded with his “freaky style”, the BX bully obliterated this Moe Love-produced track, punching the competition “in their third eye”, dissing Eddie Murphy and proclaiming his status as a “dope rap idol” over a timeless “Nautilus” sample.

“Bronx Ni**a – The One Seven O Mix” (Ruffhouse Records / 1992)

This remix courtesy of both T.R. Love and Moe Love found the Dog celebrating his old-school roots on what was probably one of my most played 12″ singles of 92. Over another chunk of Bob James’ classic “Nautilus”, Tim shouted out everyone and everywhere from the Zulu Nation and Bronx River to BDP and Soundview Projects, resulting in what must be one of the hardest dedications to the home of Hip-Hop on wax. Word to B.O.!

“Porno Star” (Mercury Records / 1992)

Although Tim had already delivered some outlandish, obscene tales of his own on 1991’s quiet storm classic “Secret Fantasies”, he returned once more in the role of the “Rated-X Man” on this self-explanatory track from Ultra’s “Funk Your Head Up” album. Dropping some of the most amusing explicit rhymes at the time since Kool G. Rap’s “Talk Like Sex” (clarifying that in the bedroom ‘Dog’ stood for “Doin’ it on the ground…”), the brazen emcee proved that it really ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none.

“I Get Wrecked” ft. KRS-One (Ruffhouse Records / 1993)

DJ Moe Love once again proved his ability to craft perfect breakbeat-driven hardcore bangers on this first single from Tim Dog’s sophomore solo project “Do Or Die”. A high-octane performance from the Blastmaster combined with a ridiculously obese bassline and Tim’s bulldozer-style rhymes resulted in a rough, rugged and raw anthem tailor-made to do the East Coast Stomp to.

“Timberlands” (Ruffhouse Records / 1993)

Speaking of the East Coast Stomp, the NY native delivered a heartfelt dedication to the Rotten Apple’s 90s footwear of choice, helpfully explaining how the hard-wearing boots had practical uses beyond just walking, such as leaving a sole print on someone’s face. “As long as Tims on my feet, I get much respect…” stated the Ultramagnetic emcee on this sparse, self-produced track. True indeed, Dog, true indeed.

“Industry Is Wak” (Our Turn Records / 1996)

After rallying against fake West Coast studio gangstas five years earlier, Tim reunited with Kool Keith for the Ultra album “Big Time” and turned his attentions to the jiggy trends that were surfacing on the East Coast in the wake of Biggie’s success. Over a head-nodding Kutmasta Kurt beat a rejuvenated Dog summed up his feelings succinctly with the lines, “Rhyming like Nas, Looking like Treach, Beat’s mad weak, Hook I can’t catch…”, speaking for legions of Hip-Hop fans in the process.

“Run Run Run” (Big City Entertainment / 2006)

Produced by the UK’s Zygote and DJ Jazz T of Diversion Tactics fame, this track from Tim’s “BX Warrior” project found the Dog at his growling best, barking over-the-top rhymes about guns, violence and rap dominance as if he was about to burst out of the speaker and punch you straight in the face.

Ryan Proctor

Bronx Science – Ultramagnetic MC’s

Tim Westwood digs in his Capital Radio vaults to dust off this vintage 1990 performance from the legendary Ultramagnetic MC’s at London’s Dingwalls venue.

NY Giant – Tim Dog

Vintage early-90s interview with Ultramagnetic MC’s member Tim Dog.

Album Review – Diversion Tactics

Diversion Tactics

“Careful On The Way Up”

(Boot)

In today’s microwave ‘we-want-it-now’ world, artists are pressured to keep listeners satisfied with a near endless stream of freestyles, mix-CDs, random MP3s and, every now and then, an official album release. So with that in mind, it’s almost incomprehensible to think that Guildford’s favourite b-boys Diversion Tactics have taken eight years to drop the follow-up to their cult classic debut ‘Pubs, Drunks And Hip-Hop’. Yet whilst it’s been a minute since they’ve formed like Voltron to deliver their unapologetically hardcore brand of home-grown hip-hop, members of DT have been keeping busy individually, with Zygote, Jazz T and The Chubby Alcoholic all stretching their creative boundaries over recent years on solo releases.

Long-time fans worried the time that’s elapsed since the release of ‘Pubs, Drunks…’ might’ve led to Diversion Tactics mellowing in old-age can take comfort from the fact that ‘Careful On The Way Up’ is brimming with dusty, boom-bap production and punchy, politically-incorrect lyricism. The opening ‘No Collaborations’ sets the tone, with Chubby gleefully attacking wannabes with “accents from Hackney when your home address is Henley” over a rugged bed of banging drums, chopped samples and perfectly executed scratches. The dark ‘Three Card Brag’ features rhyme vet Blade temporarily suspending his retirement from the mic to deliver a typically self-assured display of verbal dexterity, whilst the feel-good funk of ‘Return Of The Ladies Man’ finds Chubby in mack mode, engaging in some playful sexual antics and claiming to “thrust more than a Porsche does”. Indeed.

‘Where I’m From?’ is a brilliant back-in-the-day tribute packed with crystal clear memories from a nostalgic Chubby, as the charismatic emcee recalls growing-up in the 80s listening to Mike Allen’s Capital Radio rap show, attending golden-era London jams and immersing himself in the culture of hip-hop. Staying faithful to their true-school roots, Diversion Tactics carry on the old-school tradition of allowing the deejay to showcase their skills on the instrumental ‘The Turntablists’, with former ITF champ Jazz T and Zygote unleashing a devastating dose of needle abuse. The remix of the previously released ‘NY To The UK’ features gritty performances from Bronx legends Tim Dog and Percee P.

Refusing to bow down to popular trends or pander to the masses, Diversion Tactics’ latest offering is a no-holds barred barrage of quality beats and rhymes infused with a genuine love of the art form. Real hip-hop is definitely alive and well in Surrey, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another eight years for a third collective effort from the DT crew.

Ryan Proctor

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