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WYDU Interview with K-Def (Part One)

by Travis on July 29, 2008

There are certain producers in the game that I’ve felt never got their just due. I’d consider them right up there with the the popular choices for legends. Producers such as DJ Pooh, Battlecat, and E-Swift out on the west coast. On the east side, Tony Dofat, Ski, and Frankenstein stick out as slept on producers and this man, K-Def, who is quite possibly the best producer out there that isn’t mentioned in the same breath as the Pete Rocks, DJ Premiers and Dr. Dres. You look at the man’s discography and it becomes evident that he has produced some of your favorite jams, and you probably didn’t even realize it. K-Def has produced for everybody from Lords of the Underground, to P Diddy, to Devante, to El Da Sensei, to Ghostface, to Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He really has produced for the who’s who list on the east coast. He’s beats are melodic in nature, but still possess that ol’ boom bap sound that I’ve love in my hip hop.

When the opportunity arose to interview one of my personal favorite producers, of course I couldn’t pass it up. No knocks against some of the newer cats that I interview for this site, but talking to the artists that I grew up listening to is always a true treat for me. K-Def was one of the more interesting interviews I’ve conducted as well as one of the lengthiest. We spoke for well over an hour about everything from his views on music now, his new EP with Dacapo as part of The Program as well as his new albumSSSSSS, as in multiple new albums. We also discussed the debate of computer production and hardware production and much, much more.

K-Def Website:
K-Def Myspace:
Ghetto Man Beats:

And in case you slept…….

1. Intro
2. Pray
3. American Dreamin’
4. Hello Brooklyn 2.0
5. No Hook
6. ROC Boys (And The Winner Is)…
7. Sweet
8. I Know
9. Party Life
10. Ignorant Sh*t
11. Say Hello
12. Success
13. Fallin’
14. Blue Magic (bonus track)
15. American Gangster (bonus track)

This is part one of a two parter…….

WYDU: Hey man, what up? Thanks for your time and doing this with us, been a big fan for a long time…..

K-Def: No problem whatsoever……

W: I’m a big fan of Willie Bobo The Fool, I could play “Galt Is Loose” for hours straight. How do you look back upon Willie Bobo now? There were some problems with samples and clearing them on that correct? Is it still available for purchase?

K-Def: Nah, it’s not out there any more like that. We are about to reissue it though, maybe make it a limited edition type of thing. We removed some songs off of it. Nothin’ happened, but I was hearing things, and I thought it’d be better to take care of it, before it become an issue. Add some more songs and that can thing. Put some new things in there that people haven’t heard. It’ll all fit in there the same way.

W: That’s getting pretty hard to find. I was lucky enough to snatch one up a couple months ago when I was looking around. So, you got the new EP out, The Article, as the group, “The Program.” How did you hook up with the MC, Dacapo?

K-Def: Basically, I was working on another album, that I’m still kind of working on. He came through and did a song. When I heard him I was like “Wow, he different than a lot of the cats I’ve been dealing with.” He’s not trying to glorify what “real” MC’s all glorify. At the end of the day, from day one, everyone wanted to glorify the jewels, the cars, the women, the money. But there is also a certain level you have to get. You have to tell about real things that happen in the everyday world, not just about made up stories. I heard something different in him. I felt the way hip hop was going right now, I thought maybe it was time for a little change. I’m not going to say he’s a super positive rapper, but he’s not on the same ole crap that we are hearing everyday from every Tom, Dick, and Harry neither. He kinda understands the kind of music I’m making. He understands the soul, the jazz, the funk behind the beats I make. It was part of his upbringing. He actually RHYMES to my beats instead of just taking the beat and doing whatever to it. We just clicked. The first songs were, ya know, alright, but as we started making more and more songs, he got a whole lot better. My style of music, the underground hip hop, it’s a whole lot better for him. He’s not going to do the cursing, he’s not going to be saying disrespectful things to women and have the women’s lib movement on him. All way around the board, it’s something I feel comfortable with and we both have the same vision, so I think it’s going to be a good thing, it’s all gravy man.

There is more ways to be heard on the mainstream and not just be the fuckin’ underground, backpack rapper or whatever you want to call that bullshit. I’m not saying he’s the best rapper, because he’s probably not, but as far he is that sound, that sound that could be up there with the CL Smooth, or the Extra P’s. He also has an understanding in the history of the music. He is a bit younger than me, but the stuff he grew up on, the J Dilla’s and the underground stuff is the same stuff I was listening to at the time. He has that knowledge and shares that tastes, so when I make music, he kinda picks the right ones. The Article is not the newest project we’ve done, but it’s grabbed some interest. The stuff we got now….we actually got two other albums, one is on the myspace page under the snocap store…

W: Oh do you? I missed that…

K-Def: Yeah, that album is called The Program actually, I think there are 12 songs on there. We are doing so many records at a pretty good pace, he’s such a hard worker that when one dude is still working on the same album, he’s done with three. He’s on some real hip hop shit and not the water down shit we are hearing now.

W:As you mentioned, he’s kind of a young guy. How is it working with someone that came up in that different age than say, you and I did?

K-Def: What’s ironic in working with this particular dude, is while he is younger, but he KNOWS hip hop culture. That’s problem with the kids now. The teenagers now came into hip hop when 50 Cent was popular. They know nuthin’ before 50 Cent. When I run across those kind of rappers, they’ve been brain washed into thinking that they need to make 10 mixtapes, press them up and go hustle them on the streets and they’ll pop, just like 50 did. These cats think they nice, but they don’t know how to make a record. You try to be professional with them, but you find yourself having to baby-sit and direct them and I’m not really with that. I cut that shit at the door anymore. As soon as you open your mouth and you are following the current trends, then there is no point in working with me. I’m not saying you can’t blow up, but I’m not really with that. It’s not my style of music. When I was growing up, that was a sellout and a fast way to make a buck. Yeah if you do pop, you might have a good single, but you won’t have no longevity. I’ve been around since the early 90′s and I didn’t get here or having a three million seller when I first came out. These young kids, they want it all right now, they just impatient. Some of them, you can see some good in there, and you want to try to help out, but I ain’t got the patience for that. Others, you just know they a bunch of bull crap, ain’t nuthin’ to do with them. They think rhyming on a mixtape over someone else’s instrumentals will blow them up. They don’t understand that you gotta make a song, with three verses and a great hook to be anything. They have no direction, the drugs, the money, the fast life, they don’t have the patience.

I don’t know man, it’s just rough out here. It’s hard for me to find the right artist. I’m not saying I failed, they failed themselves. If the right person comes along, then I’m all for it. Right now, my man Dacapo is that kind of artist. He can take the criticism, he goes backs and listens to his songs. He does listen to other people, but in the end, it’s all about what he thinks and what I think. We both kind of judge each other judgments, and I can work with that kind of rapper. I don’t need the, “my boys tell me I’m nice, so I’m nice”, and they don’t listen to you. I mean, that’s retarded..(laughs)

W: (laughing)…yeah, I see that a lot, all you have to do is go out on myspace and see that kind of thing. How important would you say having a “connection” with an artist you are working with is?

K-Def: I’ll be honest with you, things are different than the way they were down in the 80′s in the 90′s. You know, we used to actually sit down and work together, come up together, spend time together. Now, it’s you submit a track or two to the manager, then it goes to the A&R, then the A&R takes it to the label, then they got to have a fuckin’ meeting on it four or five times, then it goes to the artist. By then, the track is two years old and it’s just a bunch of bull crap. To me, I’m beyond that. It’s frustrating. I think there are a lot of artists I should have worked with already, but it hasn’t happened because of the bullshit. It’s not because they haven’t gotten in touch with me, it’s just that it’s become so difficult to jump through the hoops. I would like to sit down with the artist, sit down in the studio with some of the cats. I ain’t gettin’ that. I get, “Yo, send me an email. Yo, send a track to my manager.” C’mon with this bullshit. There is no respect with it happening the way it should be happening, everything is dumbed down. No one wants to even come down from New York to New Jersey, you know what I’m saying? I need someone who will sit with me, collab with me and for us to both be on the same page, we need to come up with ideas together. I believe I can make a hit all day long for any rapper in the game, but like I said, things need to change, but I can’t change it by myself. The major labels aren’t doing anything about it, so I gotta do what I gotta do. I got joints lined up. It doesn’t matter if I find the right artist or not. I got albums lined up. I’m tired of waiting. I got albums to put out every other month, every other month, every other month. You track can be the hottest track, but it doesn’t get to the artist a lot of the time. If producers could get with the artists, instead of kissing label’s ass, the music could be a lot better.

And a lot of these young cats need to know that a lot of us older cats know more about the game than you can possibly imagine. They look at us now and think, “Oh, they OLD SCHOOL”, just the same way we looked at Kurtis Blow and Run DMC as old school, but they didn’t have the technology we had. But the technology used in the 90′s is STILL being used today. There are a whole lot of extra new things, but we still on top of that. It’s frustrating as hell, cause there are A LOT of artists I want to work with out there. I did the Jay-Z joint just to show that, hey, Jay sounds good over some of my joints. I mean, I wasn’t really feeling the whole album like that, but I felt dude really sounded good on a couple of those tracks. I hope it was a wake up call for him, if he heard it. I’m a 90′s ni**a, I still got heat man. I got a lot of tracks that I couldn’t give to anyone unless they were for someone of a certain level of quality. I got tracks that are 5-10 years old and I’m just saving them for certain rappers to mess with them. My man Decapo is doing what he can do to make things better, and I’m doing my part, so we hope to bring it.

W: Yeah, that’s pretty deep….The sound on the E.P. was pretty cohesive, were you looking for a particular sound on that? Were you looking for the sound of the 90′s?

K-Def: I wasn’t really looking for the sound of the 90′s, but there are some tracks that kind of fall into what I did back then. The bad thing about it though, is I can’t really do it like I did in the 90′s. I’m going to give thanks to a couple of ummm…I’m not going to say their producer names, but they helped get it this way, but you can’t be doing samples like you used to do. Chopping up the samples is good, but they still got to clear it. You can flip that sample 50 different ways, but you still going to have to clear it. I’m not in the position where I can clear samples like that. If I did a track from the 90′s back then, I mean, “Funky Child” had SIX samples, not to mention I gave publishing three times over to James Brown. People are like, “Yo! I love that record!!!”, but I didn’t EAT off none of them records. I was supposing to EAT off those, but I wasn’t. Everyone loved them, and I got all the props in the world, but no one knows how much money came out of my pocket on that. It took a pounding on me. The High School High joint, Barry White wanted a lot for that joint.

As I got older, I looked for different ways to do shit. I sold my MP, then I bought it back, but I just don’t use it much. I did WHOLE albums using my sampler. I wear glasses because of it now, but yo, once you get used to digital sound, it’s hard to go back to a 16 bit sampler. I gave up. In ’97 I got me a computer and I started rocking on that. I can still sample if I need to, but there is more open ways on the computer. If I want to make it funky, I can do the drum sample, the 808 sample behind it, the funk loops. I can still do that, but to be honest with you, there are a looooot of people that do that style. I think DJ Premier was the master of that style. Anyone trying to do anything similar to him should pay the man his royalties. I’m not hating, because everyone does their own thing and their inspiration. I was inspired by him as well, but I didn’t straight jack his style. You know? I tell everyone, I’m inspired by Extra P, Pete Rock, RZA, Primo, Dre, all of them, I use the main essence of the aura, but then I make my own thing.

W: What do you say to cats that say “You are using a computer, that ain’t real hip hop.” There are a bunch of hard headed cats out there that still think that way. What do you say to them?

K-Def: I say it like this: There are two different kinds of computer cats out there. There are computer cats who learn from the ground up, they start with turntables, the drum machine, the sampler, right? Once you understand that, then you can go onto something deeper. You are pretty much set to go on to the computer. Then you got those who, once they buy a computer, the first thing they go buy is Fruity Loops, they all dreamin’. Bottom line, if you have a computer in your house and Pro Tools and think you producing, those are the suckas, the amateurs, the hobbyists, the wannabes, whatever you want to call them. Then you got those who learn from the ground up, who learn all the tools, and keep growing and growing and use all the technologies, those are the real cats. There is a lot of them that I know that may not be known names, or be at the forefront, but they are out there. They actually learn.

As far as those that say a computer isn’t a real tool, I can shut a lot of those cats down using a computer. My programming is what set it apart. Learning how to mix, learning how to program. I did a lot of programming with Marley Marl, that’s kinda how I got my start. A lot of the sounds that I made in the 90′s, I made with my SP 3000. I’d use a modulater to make a sound from a sound. It was crazy. As far as the computer goes, yeah, it’s not for everybody, but for me I will blast cats using any of the major programs, Fruity Loops, Cubase, Logic, Reason, any of that, I can do some damage with those. No MP 1000,2000, 3000, or 4000 or any other sampler can do what those do, it’s just impossible.

I’ll tell you the real reason why I left the MP3000 alone. I found out after extensive programming and sequencing that the MP2000 & 3000 couldn’t take up twelve notes on one tick (?) without it taking up the whole sequence. That was back in ’95, ’96, so I kind of left that alone. I was like “Oh, I can’t have that!” To me, the computer is the future. Yeah, the other stuff are tools to make it sound right. But you have to be more hands on and more experimenting.

To Be Continued…..Part Two Coming

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