Hip-Hop Core: How did you hook up with Pitch to form the Raw Produce unit?

Cadence: We met through Mike Ladd. I knew Mike through school and Pitch and him were starting to work on a demo. They got asked to do a show and they needed a DJ, so Mike asked if I would do it. While we were getting ready for the show I was talking to Pitch about some production ideas I had—I didn't have any equipment, so I needed some help putting things together. We started banging out a few tracks and just kept it going form there.

HHC: What were your personal hip-hop backgrounds at the time?

C: I was mostly just a fan. I grew up on 80's hip hop. When I was 13 or so I got a mismatched set of turntables and a radio shack mixer, so I was kind of a bedroom DJ. I was a big record collector, but I never took the DJing part too seriously. I just did it for fun. When I went away to school I started doing parties and dances and then I got a radio show.

HHC: I believe that you primarily wanted to be a DJ after hearing Grandmixer DST. What made you change your mind and switch to production and then emceeing?

C: One thing led to the next really. I was always a crate digger. I started out by trying to find the breaks that were in my favorite hip hop records. Then I started looking for stuff that hadn't been used. I used to work a lot of the stuff I found into my DJ sets, so by the time I hooked up with Mike and Pitch I had a lot of stuff I wanted to try and it finally gave me a chance to do something with it.

HHC: Who created the Coalition and what was the goal of this collective?

C: I guess Mike Ladd gets the credit. That first show I did with them was also their first show. For just that one show we went by “Brother's Felonious” which I think was Mike's idea. I had been working with an MC named CIA and he got on stage at the show too, so all of us became the original members of the Coalition. Over time a bunch of MCs came in and out. Pitch and I were the only common link though since we did the beats for everyone—we adopted the name Raw Produce Productions to differentiate ourselves a little. The concept of the Coalition was that we were trying to make hip hop the way we wished other people were making it. We focused on sampling music that no one else was touching at the time and trying to have intelligent content. At the time we were a little different too because we had people from a lot of different ethnicities in the group. There were a lot of black groups and Latino groups and a handful of white groups, but not too many groups with a cultural mix so that made us stand out a little bit. But basically the goal was to make good music and break some barriers in the process.

HHC: It's well documented that you only began to take the microphone when the Coalition started to vanish and that it's how Raw Produce as a group really began around 1993. You were a little bit reluctant to take the mic then. How do you feel as an emcee now?

C: Yeah, I never intended to be an MC, but like everything else, it all fell into place. I actually woke up one morning with a nearly complete song in my head. I had never seriously tried to write any lyrics before, but I just sat down and wrote this thing out. 3 whole verses and the whole thing took about 20 minutes. It was your basic whine-about-the-state-of-hip-hop song, nothing ground breaking. I never would have recorded it at all, but we were going through a phase with the Coalition where everyone was headed in different directions. People were skipping sessions, or showing up late. One night Pitch and I were in the studio waiting for someone who didn't show and I said “Well…I have some lyrics…” so we recorded my song and it got a good response from anyone who heard it--pretty soon Pitch started writing and recording stuff as well, but we treated like a sideline thing. When we did shows, or sent out Coalition demos we didn't include the stuff we were doing. There was a lot that I wanted to say with the music I was making and once I began to focus on writing and recording my own lyrics I started to love doing it.

HHC: How did the 'Cycles' 12" on Insomnia Records come about?

C: We had been shopping demos to major labels for a while. We landed some production work with Tommy Boy and we thought we had a deal at one point with a subsidiary of a major label that ended up losing their financial backing. We met with people at just about every major hip hop label. We didn't have a manager either, so it was a big deal that any of these people even let us in the door. But, big labels don't like to take risks on anything different. People would always tell us that our demos were better than 99% of the stuff they heard all day, but even so they didn't think they could find the market for our stuff because it was so different. Once it became clear that we weren't gonna get a break from anyone we decided that doing it ourselves was the only way to prove there was a market for it. As compared to now there wasn't much of an independent hip hop scene back then (‘94-'95), so on the one hand we didn't have a lot of competition, but on the other hand there weren't distributors lining up either. We pressed 1000 copies, with no distribution deal and started to ask anyone and everyone to help us spread the word. Pitch's stepbrother, Jamieson Grillo, was a promoter—he worked for a bunch of major labels and eventually started his own company—he helped us get the record to Stretch and Bobbito. On the strength of them spinning the record we got a call form a distributor that wanted a substantial number of copies (more than we had pressed) so that led to our first distribution deal and from there it was off to the races.

HHC: What's the story behind the release of the 'Refrigerator Poetry EP' that you released after a few more singles?

C: We did our second single through Fat Beats and they helped us broker a deal to get the EP out in Japan . Since they were involved, a few copies got out to other places too, but basically it was a Japan-only release which had all the material form our second single as well some other tracks.

HHC: How did you hook up with Peter Agoston and signed to Female Fun after the long hiatus that you were compelled to go on?

C: Peter had just released the first Special Herbs record with MF Doom and was getting ready to do an instrumental record with DJ Spinna. He's also a journalist and he had written about our stuff before, but we had never spoken to him. He just reached out one day to say that he had been feeling the material and to say that he'd be down to help us in one way or another, whether it was putting the album out or just helping to spread the word. We had been struggling to find the right way to get the album out, so as we talked more it just made sense to do it on Female Fun.

HHC: When did you decide to record solo material?

C: Pitch got a job offer in NYC and he took it. He also owned most of our studio equipment, so he took everything with him when he moved. We were still finishing the Raw produce album, so I went to NYC a few times to work on stuff and we've still been working on some stuff long distance, but when he left the Boston area I didn't have a way to keep making music on a daily basis. Eventually I built up a small studio and started doing some songs—mostly to stay active with it. I had never really done any music completely on my own, so a lot of it was just a learning process—just to see how it went. I wasn't really planning to release anything, although a few of those first few songs did end up on my solo album (“Cadence Poisons the Minds of the Children”). Eventually I decided to test the waters and see if I could get a song or two out. Peter from Female Fun suggested that I contact DJ Fisher from Day By Day about a compilation they were doing. I sent a few songs to DJ and then he asked for a few more and eventually he offered to do an album with me, which was more than I ever expected.

HHC: What's your view on "Cadence Poisons the Minds of the Children" a few months down the line?

C: I'm proud of the album. It didn't make the noise I hoped it might, but that doesn't bother me too much. This was my first time out as a solo artist. I made an album that, except for a few guest spots, came entirely from me. I did all the beats, the lyrics, the cuts, the mixes, etc… Not many people, can say they've done that. I'm getting better at this stuff over time, so I'll always look back on older material and spot things I could have done differently, that's just the nature of doing this, but I'm very happy with the album and I know that a lot of people connected to what I was doing. I can't ask for more than that.

HHC: It really seems that songs have to have a meaning (or even a message) according to you. Could you elaborate on that?

C: I don't feel like every song has to be that way, but I also feel like making music gives me chance to speak on things and I try not to waste that chance. Hip hop is the most direct form of music. MCs speak directly to the listener in a way that doesn't happen in most other forms of music. That's why the music can be so powerful. If I didn't represent my own point of view on my records then I would feel like I wasn't doing my part to make a real contribution to hip hop.

HHC: There seems to be an immediate reaction in underground hip-hop following the stupidity of W.'s actions. More and more attacks aimed at the president are beginning to be released (NMS, Danger Mouse & Jemini, Illogic, Mac Lethal, Immortal Technique…). A few words about 'W.' now that the war on Iraq has happened?

C: The song “W.” was written as a response to the elections. At the time 9/11 hadn't happened so the song doesn't even begin to address everything that happened after that. I have another song on my album called “Vengeance or Victory” which was written and recorded in the two or three days after the attacks—but even then I wasn't talking about a war that was going on—just what I saw on the horizon. But I think W. made a mockery of the election laws and shouldn't be in power in the first place. From there he capitalized on people's fear and anger from 9/11 to start a war under false pretences. Our economy has been on a steady decline for his whole term in office and years of diplomatic relations have been destroyed. I don't understand why people aren't angrier about it. To me, any one of these offences is 10 times worse than Whitewater, or being blown by an intern, or even Watergate. Never mind the fact that he shouldn't be in power, I don't understand why he's not in jail. I'm glad to see other hip hop artists speaking out on it too.

HHC: The whole Boston scene is really active in that awareness movement, from Insight releasing his "The Maysun Project" to Mr. Lif or yourself raising these issues. Why in your opinion is Boston more aware of these problems and active than any other part of the US ?

C: I'm from Cambridge MA , just across the river form Boston . It's one of the most liberal cities in the country so I'm not surprised a lot of that stuff comes out of our area. Beyond that, the Boston area is home to a huge number of colleges and universities, so I think there's a lot of student activism and a lot of people are drawn to the area for its history of being politically progressive. At the same time, there's another element in Boston that led to a history of troubled race relations. A lot of those wounds still exist today, but they have roots that go back to the 60's and 70's. I think that environment also led to a lot of community activism and protest in the past. When you bring those elements together you have a city where people are very accustomed to speaking their minds.

HHC: Talking about politics, what do you think about Arnold Schwarzenegger's election in California ?

C: California is 3000 miles away, so I won't pretend to be an expert. But I think it's an embarrassment. In part because of the way the election unfolded and who Arnold is, but mostly because I think the recall was unnecessary in the first place. If people were unhappy with Gray Davis, they would have voted him out in the next election. Instead, a rich republican political opponent was able to mount a recall campaign which cost the state millions of dollars and threw the whole system into chaos. If he had committed a crime that would be one thing, but it's really just a case of one party being mad that they lost the election. When that happens, you just have to wait ‘til the next election and vote the guy out. That's how the system has worked for hundreds of years. Why change it now? I see it as part of a disturbing pattern of trying to manipulate elections. It started with attempts to remove Bill Clinton from office, continued with manipulating the last presidential election and now this. What the Republicans have proven is that if they don't like the way an election is going, they can find a way around it--even when it's clear that the general public doesn't want them to win. It's frightening to me.

HHC: Many artists coming out of the Boston area are 'one-man arsenals' like you. I'm thinking about Edan or Insight for instance, who know perfectly how to rhyme, produce AND use the turntables. What is it in your opinion that makes Boston artists so special and independent-minded? I know it's something that's really important for you (being able to make a complete song from start to finish).

C: Something in the water maybe? I don't know really. There are a lot of people trying to do hip hop in the Boston area, so maybe people feel like they need to be more versatile to make sure they can always find a way to stay involved. For me it was just a natural progression to be involved in all aspects of making a song. It's important to me because it lets me get into every aspect of how I want to present myself on wax.

HHC: Your production style involves a lot of jazz influences. Are you a big jazz fan? If yes, who are some of your favourite artists of this genre?

C: I love jazz. There's too many names to mention really. I almost have to break it down into different styles, or different instruments. Of course I love the classic stuff, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington. I like guys like Thelonious Monk and Rhassaan Roland Kirk who were doing something different. Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, Clark Terry, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Gloria Lynne. If I keep free associating all day I could fill up pages and pages with names.

HHC: Your beats are often musically complex, yet very effective. What is your goal musically speaking?

C: My goal is to make real songs, not just beats. I make simple stuff sometimes too, but I like to make stuff that has some musicality to it. I think the beat is just as important as the lyrics. It adds depth to a song when you pay attention to the details.

HHC: A production album is supposed to be released on Day By Day next year. Could you tell us a few words about it and give us some of the names of the emcees that will be invited on your compositions?

C: The album we be called “Cadence Presents: State Lines.” I'm not quite ready to start naming names yet, but it'll be a good mix of some up and coming people and some more established names. I have about three tracks left to do right now and I'm very proud of what I have so far. I think it will catch some people off guard too. This has been in the works for a long time though. it's TOUGH trying to work around so many schedules and connect with people who are trying to focus on their own careers too. I'm so thankful to all the artists who took time out to get down on the album. It's been a long road and at times it's been frustrating, but it's amazing to be able to reach out to a bunch of people I respect and get to know them and work with them.

HHC: You've recently produced a few tracks for Quite Nyce. Is that something that you want to develop, producing for other people? Anything in the works?

C: Ever since the Coalition days, I've been producing for other people in one way or another. I like it because it gives me a chance to get into some different areas and make beats that I might not write to myself. Quite Nyce is the first artist that I produced by myself--he just happened to reach out to me at a time when I was ready to take on the project. It was supposed to be one song, but I ended up doing about half of his album. To date, his 12” is the only solo production project that's dropped (other than my album)--it features a song I did for him and Breez Evahflowin' called ‘You Don't Know Me.” I also have tracks on a bunch of upcoming releases. I did bunch of tracks for OUO, a group fronted by my man Dumi Right, who people might remember from Zimbabwe Legit--they dropped a record in the early 90's on Hollywood Basic. I have done beats for Lord Cyrus, ShortyRaw and a few others and I'm getting ready to do some stuff with GM Grimm and Eddie Meeks of Prophetix. I definitely want to do more producing for other artists. I think “State Lines” will help me get the point across that I can work with a wide range of artists.

HHC: After listening to your solo album, your contribution to the Raw Produce sound seems very clear. What does Pitch exactly bring to the table in the group?

C: Straight up, Pitch is a lazy bastard. He's been riding my coat tails for YEARS! For real, Pitch is one of the most talented producers out there. We have a lot in common in terms of taste, which is probably why there's a lot of consistency between Raw Pro stuff and Cadence solo stuff. Beyond that, Pitch has musical training that I don't have and he's got great head for technology and how it interacts with making beats. I always knew he had skills, but I don't think I ever fully appreciated what he brought to the table until I started to work on my own.

HHC: How do you work together?

C: We really collaborate well when we work together-- it's almost hard to break down who does what in terms of the creative elements of the beats. I think we really have complimentary skills. We've also been working together for so long that it's easy to communicate with each other and get ideas across.

HHC: You've been talking about the Raw Produce album "The Feeling of Now" for a long time now. I think it was even ready last year. What happened exactly?

C: I don't even know if I know the real answer to that question. Ever since we started making records we've had some real challenges that got in the way of us making things happen. During the late 90's while we were putting out our singles I wasn't able to really throw myself into the game all the way because my Mother was dying of cancer and I was her only family. Even though we managed to drop a bunch of records, it interrupted the momentum a lot, so we never got to tour, or even build up real consistency where we had new material coming out all the time. Eventually Pitch's father got sick as well. Real life just got in the way of a lot of what we had planned in music. I think a lot of people would have given up and figure the chance had passed them by, but we didn't do that. From there it's just been hard to open doors. Some people don't know the story behind what happened to us, so all they see is the big gaps between some of the records--or even if they understand what went down, they think it'll be harder to sell new records, because some of these young kids listening now could care less about the fact that we had a record out in 1995 and they have no idea who we are. So the loss of momentum really hurt us. Add to that the fact that we can be perfectionist, so we try to take time to make stuff as good as it can be--we were living in different states part of the time too. But mostly we needed to be sure we had the right deal in place. We wanted to be sure that whoever put the record out understood what we were trying to do with it, to make sure that it wouldn't get buried under a bunch of other albums, or end up at the bottom of someone's list of priorities.

HHC: Why did you decide to release "The Feeling of Now EP" prior to the LP?

C: The EP kind of functions like as a CD single. We wanted to get people ready for the album, give CD-only heads a chance to the material and release a few songs that weren't going to be on the album.

HHC: How did you hook up with Thes-One for the remix of the title track?

C: Peter from Female Fun hooked it up. But in talking to Thes we realized that we had mutual respect for each other's music. I think we all felt like we could do something good together. Thes just took the ball and ran with it and came back with a dope version of the song.

HHC: Where did you get the idea for that beautiful EP cover?

C: The EP cover is actually a variation on the album cover. When you see the album you'll see an undistorted version of that picture. Peter hooked us up with the designer, Miro, who's done an incredible job with our artwork.

HHC: What inspired you the humorous "Richard's Radio Jam"? Was it a nod to Apache's "Tonto"?

C: It wasn't exactly an ode to ‘Tonto” although I borrowed the “Like My Man Apache Said…” line from Kurious's “Walk Like A Duck.” The un-edited version of the song is called “The Dick Jam” and it will be on the album. A lot of Mcs brag on their dicks in songs and I find that stuff kind of boring. Personally, I don't want to think about what someone else does with their dick. But it's almost a requirement that Mcs talk about their dick at some point. So I was thinking about how Raw Pro does a lot of positive songs and I wrote the song from that perspective. In the song, my dick is a social activist, trying to make the world a better place by caring for people and being upright citizen, so to speak...

HHC: Can you break down your science of production a little bit and what is involved in the making of a Cadence/Raw Produce track?

C: I think about music in layers. I don't even really do it intentionally. Even when I was a kid I would hear a song and in my head I would separate out the different elements of the song. I would notice the difference between the melody and harmony, or how the bassline played off the drums and how the whole thing came together to fill up the whole spectrum of sound. In hip hop production you're taking songs apart and then recombining the elements with sections from other songs. I want my beats to sound like a cohesive song, so if I have dope bassline I know I have to fill up the rest of the audio spectrum. To make it sound natural I need mids and highs to balance out the lows. When I finish I want it to be hard to tell which elements come from one source and which one comes from another. To me, the best tracks are the ones where the listener loses track of the different parts of the song and they feel almost like they could be hearing a band playing the music.

HHC: What is your view on the whole Boston hip-hop scene?

C: I have mixed feelings I guess. I'm proud of the fact that the scene has launched so many respectable artists. So much talent has come out of this area and I've had the good fortune to work with a lot of good people. On the other hand, Boston is too small to really support everyone, so that means that there's not enough room for everyone to get their moment on the spotlight. The result is that a lot of people end up so focused on looking out for themselves and their boys that they don't work together. For me all this is complicated by the fact that the current scene really evolved during a time when I was busy taking care of a dying parent. I feel like a lot of people don't know what I went through, so they just see the fact that I wasn't around as much a lot of other people were, or that they don't know me as well. For that reason, I still feel like an outsider in a lot of ways. So even though I've been involved for a long time, in some ways I still feel like I'm making up for lost time.

HHC: I was in Boston this summer for the Peace & Unity Hip-Hop Festival and I was amazed to see that such a big event was held in the middle of the city centre of Boston with the help of the mayor. Do you think that Boston has a particular relationship to hip-hop or is it a common thing?

C: I've never seen anything like that event take place in Boston . I have to give it up to the Inebriated Rythms/Grit people for getting that thing off the ground. I can't even imagine how they did it. For all the progressive politics in this area, Boston is also a city with a long history of bad race relations. It's better now than it used to be, but that stuff runs deep too. When I was growing up there were barely any clubs that would book hip hop, never mind having a big event like that in front of city hall. So, no, that's not a typical Boston thing. It was a great event though. Maybe it opened the door for more good things in the future. If it did, my only hope is that it might grow to include a larger cross-section of the local hip hop scene. I was just a spectator that day and I had a great time, but it would have been great to be on stage too.

HHC: When you were in the Coalition back in the 90's you used to work alongside Mike Ladd and DJ Revolution. Are you still in contact with them and do you plan to ever do a reunion track one day?

C: I haven't talked to Revolution in a while. We were in contact pretty regularly up til a little after R2K dropped. He called me when he came to Boston after “In 12's we Trust” dropped and I saw him briefly, but since then we've lost touch. I wish him all the success in the world and I would definitely be open to working with him, but it seems like he's not really thinking about the past too much. I knew big things would happen for him though--even back when I first met him in 1990 or so he was one of the nastiest Djs I had ever seen. As for Mike Ladd, I just had a chance to get in the studio with him recently for the first time in a LONG time. It was a lot of fun to do something together again. We always talk about doing stuff together, so maybe this will kick start the process a little bit.

HHC: Apart from your Boston cohorts, do you listen to any of the stuff that's coming out right now? If yes, what do you like?

C: I'm always on the lookout for good hip hop. It's getting harder and harder to find stuff that holds my attention though. I loved the DM and Jemini record. The Binkis album is also in heavy rotation right now. There's other stuff here and there that I like too, but it's not a very long list at the moment.

HHC: Is there any hope of seeing you rocking a stage in France or Europe any time soon?

C: As soon as the right offer comes along I'm there. Our records have always gotten a lot of love on Europe and I'd love to have a chance to perform there.

HHC: Any last word?

C: Thanks to hiphopcore for supporting! Be on the lookout for “The Feeling of Now” and “State Lines” when they drop. And if you don't have “Cadence Poisons the Minds of the Children” grab one of those too. Beyond that, I want to tell everyone to cop pH Music's “ School of Emceeing ” compilation and Lord Cyrus' “Diamonds R 4 Ever” compilation. Two dope albums that are definitely worth supporting.

Interview by Cobalt
November 2003

PS: Thanks to Cadence and DJ Fisher.

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