From the land where the first foreigners touched upon the North American continent, there is a high school math teacher. Now this isn’t just any high school math teacher, this high school math teacher is a hip hop head. Not only is he a hip hop head, he is also a very talented producer.
My man Hotbox encompasses that traditional boom bap sound, especially on his most recent release “Boxploitation” EP which utilizes classic samples from some of the great Blaxploitation movies from yesteryear to craft a very funky 20 minute EP that just screams to be heard out there.
WYDU: What’s good man, why don’t you drop the 411 on who you are and where you represent?
Hotbox: “Drop the 411” . . . haha I love the old school vernacular. My name is Hotbox, I’m currently based out of Moncton, New Brunswick, but I rep SJC, the oldest city in North America. I’m from the north where the weather is cold and me and beats go together like a kettle and stove.
W: Describe your sound to someone that may have never heard of you.
Hotbox: Lately I’ve been on some chopped soul shit, with crazy hard drums, and crazy micro-chops. I’m a student of the golden age; I don’t like anything that sounds too clean, too slick. I’m not trying to make mellow music either. I don’t listen to hip-hop to relax.
W: What equipment do you use for your work? Do you have any preferences?
Hotbox: My set up is quite basic, really. I pretty much just use an MPC 2000 XL and lots of vinyl. I use synths, especially MicroKorg to sprinkle over the grittiness. I try to get each beat as close as possible to the final product in the sampler itself, before I dump the track.
W: What is your take on the whole software vs. hardware debate?
Hotbox: I don’t really have any take on it. Personally, I prefer using a sampler because I like working with the pads. I also like that sampled sound that comes from the MPC, and I can’t get that with any of the software programs I’ve played with. But with that being said, cats who know their Reason or Logic inside out can bang out heaters and you would never tell the difference.
W: You don’t live the typical “rap star” lifestyle, teaching high school math (I was lucky to get past linear equations myself). Is that something you want to keep on doing or do you eventually want to concentrate on music full time?
Hotbox: Actually, I am a rap star; I got celebrity status in the math lab. I’m runnin’ this school shit right now, but shit is hectic. My teacher game is like the rap game. It’s a crazy grind, but I’ve got a big fan base. And I’m always thinking short term. I keep threatening retirement; I probably won’t be a 45-year old teacher.
W: Coming from Eastern Canada, it’s an area not known for being a hip-hop hotbed. What is the scene like out where you are? Is it a challenge getting heard coming from that region?
Hotbox: There are dozens of talented artists here in eastern Canada, but there is no industry or infrastructure. Classified is an exception, he’s blipped the radar already and has potential to blow up. I think it is a challenge to be heard regardless of where you come from. In this new digital era, all you need is a computer mic and a myspace page, and you are an “artist”. Because of this, there is such a vast amount of music now available; it is even more difficult to compete for the listener’s attention. But for the same reasons, the playing field has been leveled. You can be from Antarctica and still get your shit out there.
W: You are one of the few artists out there without a myspace page, which seems like a given for artists. Any particular reason you choose to avoid that?
Hotbox: Yeah, I used to have a myspace, but I dropped it a year ago. I spent countless hours surfing myspace pages when it first started, but the novelty is long gone. I don’t have a face book page either. That may seem like hustling backwards to most artists, but maybe the internet is about to go out of style and I’m just ahead of the curve. Myspace was getting a little funny toward the end of my lease; rappers I once looked up to sending out mass messages like “Will rap on your song for $500” . . .it’s easier to romanticize the golden era if I don’t see things like that.
W: Last year’s project, Frostbite, which you had some well known names on there such as MC Lyte (a WYDU fav. . . . ) and Sean Price. What was the aim with that album, what were you trying to accomplish and do you feel you were able to do that?
Hotbox: I was trying to create awareness for my music and brand myself. And I think it worked to a certain extent; I got a lot of love with that record, but today’s model is to drop project after project, mixtapes every month, leak crazy songs. My teacher grind is serious, about 60-70 hours a week, on top of regular shit like cleaning my bathroom, so I just don’t have the time to keep up with all that. And I think there’s something to be said for quality control. Back in the day there would be a year or so in between albums; you’d get a break from the artists, then they come back and boom!
W: The free project was Boxploitation EP, which was an interesting concept.
How did that come to fruition? How was the reception for that?
Hotbox: During the whole time I was making that, I wasn’t listening to any music made after 1992. I keep up on everything that comes out now, but for that 6 week period or so, I was partying like it was 1989. From ’88 to 1992 era shit, you can hear that influence over a few of the tracks on there. Also at the time, I dug up some obscure Blaxploitation records, and then I went back and watched some of those films. “Superfly” is my favourite movie of all time. The reception was overwhelmingly positive; the consensus was that it is my best work yet, so I’m very pleased with the feedback. But I always want my music to reach more people than it does. R.I.P. Dolemite.
W: What is the next project we can hear from you? Anything else on the horizon you want to share with the readers?
Hotbox: I’m hoping to drop a limited edition 45 single next month, which is a slice from the Boxploitation pie. That’s for all the vinyl junkies, the audiophiles. But there have been so many setbacks on the vinyl tip that I really don’t want to promise anything. Just a bunch of bullshit like manufacturers demanding sample clearances, etc. I’m hoping to drop a new album sometime next year called “Number Theory”. I’m sitting on about half an album right now, and when I can find some more time I’ll wrap it up. If I can get funding, I’ll press vinyl. If not, it will be strictly digital. My new shit is leaps and bounds over my previous work, so I’m anxious to get that out there without too much red tape.
W: If you could pick 3 artists to work with, who would they be?
Hotbox: Hopefully “work with” would imply being in the same room together actually collaborating, not e-mailing beats and rhymes back and forth. Slick Rick is my #1 choice, simply because he’s my favourite rapper of all time. Black Milk is my favourite out of all the new era producers, so I’d like to chill with him to see how he operates. And EPMD!
W: What’s your all-time favourite beat?
Hotbox: Time 4 Sum Action, no wait. . .Mama Said Knock You Out!
W: Any last words?
Hotbox: Check out the Boxploitation EP; if you like what you hear, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org If there are any skilled MC’s out there who are feeling my sound, feel free to reach out as well. Not myspace rappers, real rappers.