Anti-MC (Part 1)

Hip-Hop Core: How has the tour with Boom-Bip been so far?

Anti-MC: It's been crazy! I got a good time. I've been just totally abusing myself, getting a couple hours of sleep every night, drinking really harsh and kinda like going crazy… but we played back to back to back. We've had 2 nights off. We did 7 dates all over the UK and then in one night we had to get from Glasgow at the top of Scotland to Brussels. After the Glasgow show, we got out at 11 and we had to drive to catch the train in London at 7 in the morning. So we drove all the night, got in the train, got in Brussels , played the show… And the next night we were in Istanbul. But we flew there so we got a little bit of sleep. But the night after, we were in the Netherlands so we flew back to Brussels to take the train. But the first show got cancelled, so that was one of our nights off. Then we went to Berlin, Exeter… so it's been wild! But it's been great.

The difference between doing a rap tour, like when we did the Mush tour over here, is that when you have a vocalist, the crowd is like 50-50 women to men… But what Brian (Boom-Bip) does, it's very mostly men. Sometimes a girlfriend would come but it's 90 % men. But it's been a great reaction because everybody is genuinely really hardcore interested in the music. At the same time, it's very stiff, not much dancing or rocking times. Typically, I'm the only one person dancing in the room, up on stage (laughs).

HHC: What made you want to become a part of this tour and of Boom-Bip's band?

A: The money!!! (laughs) No. I met him when we did that Mush tour and a couple of days before we left Robert from Mush had us all hanging out. The Clouddead guys came down and Brian came out, that was when he was still living in Cincinatti. He was one of the oldest dudes on tour and he was always super nice so we kinda clicked and became friendly. After the Mush tour, he wanted to move out to L.A. so I was one of the people who helped him to find a place. A few months ago, he told me that he had a tour coming up and that he needed somebody to play in the band so I agreed.

HHC: Had you already played in a band before?

A: On the Mush tour, I led Kamal's band and on "Free Kamal" I played all the instruments… Apart from that, I never played in instrumental bands before. I played in jazz bands and the brass ensemble in my high school (that was a music school) but that was some in-school stuff. Outside school, I would play in rock bands with singers, even punk bands.

HHC: I know you play a lot of different instruments. Did you learn to play all of them in school?

A: Kind of… I played guitar before school and my grandmother had me play on a piano when I was very little. You know, my father was in music and my family is very artsy so they encouraged me to try an instrument. When I was about 8 or 9, a friend of mine had a guitar and my father saw that I really liked the sound of it so my parents got me lessons outside of school. So once I started getting in junior high, I played in the bands. They even put me in the marching band and I was playing trombone, the typical nerd instrument. So I played in the brass ensemble and wind ensemble at concert levels and I played guitar in some high level jazz bands. It was very nerdy, like we would teach each other instruments. If there was a cool trumpet player, we hang out and he'd be like "I want you to teach me guitar" and I'd teach him guitar and he'd teach me trumpet… There was a lot of that going on. And as I played guitar, I could teach myself bass. I took some piano classes too. So now, I play piano, keyboards, guitar, bass, trombone and trumpet ok. I can also hack time on the drums but not really… but a lot of percussion stuff I can play. Not being braggish, but if I have enough time with something, I can figure it out pretty well.

HHC: Considering all your musical studies and all the instruments you play, what made you want to become a hip-hop producer?

A: The year I graduated in high school at Hamilton , it was Murs, Eligh, Scarub, Anacron, Double K from People Under The Stairs, myself, Belief… Eligh had dropped out of school that year so he got a GED and was gonna start college. But we were all together. So you see, I think that growing up in L.A. that music is always around you. No matter what you do, you're influenced by it. I was always kinda intrigued by it. I first heard hip-hop when I was in 4 th grade and I felt like it was something new and different. I lived in a house where doing music was encouraged, especially what's like hip and cool and cutting edge… so I started hanging out with a lot of those guys. With Murs and Eligh, we were in a crew called Log Cabin and I was actually rapping at that time. I started watching Elusive, who was in the group, making the beats on the SP and it really intrigued me. I enjoyed that side of it more so I quit rapping. I felt like everybody in LA was rapping and I figured I was trying too hard like I was gonna be the dude and stuff… It just really wasn't me so I walked away from it. As I enjoyed playing instruments, I started getting more into the production side.

HHC: Speaking of Log Cabin, I know that Murs doesn't want to release the album that you recorded together but don't you feel that all the people that love your stuff should have this thing on an official disc, instead of all these mp3's that have been floating around for years?

A: I respect what Murs says: let the past be the past. It would be so hard to get everybody to sit in a room and figure out "ok, if we sell this record, you're gonna get extra savings"… That's kinda like what broke it up in the first place. But on the other hand, some people in the crew, like Kamal, think that if we release it, everything's gonna be fine. I think it's somewhere in-between. If everybody could get in a room and just sit back and get along, it would be great to see it come out. But at the same time, it's good to have that mystery… Some rappers re-release the same record fifteen different times and aren't making any new record.

HHC: Yeah, but for instance, it was great to finally see "Fo'Tractor" available on CD last year. It allowed a lot of people to finally buy this album and to have it in their discotheque with a better sound quality instead of having it in a crappy mp3 format… And it doesn't prevent people from being interested in your and Radio's new releases.

A: But there's also the money aspect of it, you know. And I think that all of the guys that were in Log Cabin are in a confortable enough financial place that they don't have to release it. I have a joke with some of the members of the hip-hop groups out there. There are hip-hop groups out there where it's like a fire sale! Anything they do, they know that their fans will buy it so they can sell it. Like "that freestyle that we did last week, let's put that on a CD and sell it! Somebody will buy it. If we can sell 5 of them, that's 50 bucks!" That's not cool to use your fans like that. Murs, Eligh and Scarub are in a confortable enough career position so they don't have to act like that. And I kind of agree with their opinion on the Log Cabin project.

HHC: Going back to your musical studies, how do you think they translate in your hip-hop production style?

A: I go back and forth… Sometimes I hear a lot of hip-hop stuff that's so derivative, like people spinning their wheel, saying the same thing, talking about being attached to a certain golden era of rap. But something I learned from my studies is that it's totally subjective. If you came up in Brooklyn in 1977, the golden era means something totally different to you that some kid who heard rap music for the first time in 1993 and who thinks that the golden era is Souls of Mischief… While to some people it's Rammelzee and K-Rob. And nowadays, people think that Anacron and Def Jux and all that shit is the golden era of rap and that we're experiencing a renaissance. I think it's all valid. When you look at jazz, you can't say the golden era was the 1920's or the 1950's and all the Blue Note era… It's all! Until the eighties! (laughs) You know, when I listen to hip-hop music, there is some of it that totally grabs me… I like to dance and to go out in a club with my girlfriend. And I think a lot of rap music has lost that. A lot of underground rap music in particular has lost the fun aspect of it. While a lot of the commercial/overground rap music has lost the arty and street aspect of it. I think that there's got to be some point in the middle… If you say your voice is an instrument, so many rappers don't sound comfortable when they rap… It's forced and it doesn't have the comfortability in the flow of the old great rap artists. So I go back and forth. I thought Edan would be huge by now… He's so fuckin' dope and so fuckin' comfortable on the microphone! But some people really feel it and some people don't. At the same time, you have some kids out there who sound so forced and contrived and yet they're selling shit loads of records. It's crazy! I feel like rap has lost a lot of that.

HHC: What do you like so much about oriental sounds and world music in general?

A: I don't know, I like the mystery of it. You listen to it and you go "ooh, it's different!" Mostly, I grew up in my house listening to Lou Reed and country music… A lot of american music. My father liked blues, Otis Redding, Muddy Waters… So when I was growing up, starting to listen to world music was something completely different and new to my ear. In L.A. , we have a radio station KCRW 89.9 and they had a reggae show and an african show that we would listen to in the week-end. But it wasn't something that was all over the place in my house. So when I first heard it, it just grabbed my ear. It takes all the ten years of music I had studied before that in my whole life and throws it all out of the window and says "now these are the new rules". Plus, I was trying hard to be cool and hip and I knew that shit was gonna take over rap. I remember being in high school and listening to indian music and being like "pretty soon, this is all rap is gonna be like, over this shit". And it's a beautiful, very emotional and soulful music too.

I think a lot of times a hip-hop producer is only as good as his musical knowledge. There are so many producers who buy records that other people have sampled just to sample their shit from those same records. It's no understanding and appreciation of music. If your whole job is to take something old and beautiful and to turn it into something new, like some kind of strange assemblage, then you have to expand your boundaries. I think that a hip-hop producer is a "tribute job", like "I want people to hear this sound or this kind of music"… Hip-hop fans shouldn't just be listening to samples of Minnie Riperton. They should be listening samples of Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn or something. It's our job!

HHC: How do you work on a track, by the way? Do you start with a loop and arrange everything around it or do you have a precise idea of what you want to accomplish in terms of ambiance right from the start and just try to get that feeling?

A: It has changed a lot over the years. In the past, like on Xololanxinxo's "Tapes from a stolen car" and on the Workforce stuff and even on Kamal's first record, I used to make tracks in a day. I thought that if I worked longer on tracks, it would sound forced and it would not be good. Everything was very quick. I'd hear a loop, get a breakbeat fuckin' record and chop up the drums and, bam!, the track was done! Now, as I'm listening to even more music, I'm using less samples and playing more instruments. For instance, for "Free Kamal", a lot of that stuff would be how can I take a sample and incorporate that into a tune that I've written? Or I had this sample that had a nice ambiance to it and how can I build instruments around that? Hanging out with Boom-Bip taught me a lot about that. A lot of rap producers like talking about the samplers, the instruments or the turntables, but they're not using their instruments. They're using it as jacking shit. You're not using the samplers! All you're doing is putting on a record, taking two bars and looping two bars… I did that on the first Kamal record and even a little bit on "Free Kamal". If you actually use it as saying "ok, I'm gonna this record that's got this particular sound and build a new thing around that with other stuff" it's important. It keeps the music vital.

HHC: You've just talked about the Westcoast Workforce. Could you tell us a few words about your work with Subtitle and other Workforce members?

A: I used to go to a community college, where all the Log Cabin guys were, and I met Gino (Subtitle). When I started getting out of the Log Cabin, I had actually taken their boombox (I still have it so if they want it, they can call me) and I would walk around SMC with this fucking huge boombox. I was playing Mystik Journeymen's 'Death or Survival' and Subtitle came up and he was like "Is that the Mystik Journeymen?". This 7" tall black dude weighing 38 pounds. So I was like "ok, dude, that's cool, I just hanged out at the Outhouse a few days ago, who are you?". He was like "I'm Sutbtitle from the Library Crew"… I thought "Wow, this guy is weird!" And two or three weeks later, Kamal and Xinxo came to my house with Oak from Lexicon and Gino. We worked on a song together called 'Happy Weed' that never saw the light of the day… It was so bad… But anyway, at that point, Gino was gonna move out to the valley where I live and he said "I think I'm thinking of starting a new crew, we can call it On The Job Training and I want it to be you and me and we would get some other dudes. You're really cool with Kamal and Xinxo maybe we could get them with us". I thought that'd be cool. But I wasn't to sure about the name of the crew so I said "What about the Workforce?" So we started the Workforce and I kinda heckled Kamal and Xinxo about getting in the crew. Xinxo had reservations because he was already down with Afterlife and 50 other crews, so we said that we would work just together but that it was not like a crew-crew…

Then, one day, I was in UCLA for the B-Boy Summit and there was this grimy-looking, long-haired white kid that came up to me like "What's up? I got tapes. Let's trade tapes!" At that time, I had that beat tape and I was like "eh, I don't think so"... He said he was Joe Dub from San Francisco street music. I said "Oh, yeah! I heard your stuff before, I don't really like it". So he said "I'll give you two of my tapes for one of those beat tapes". I agreed, took'em home and I was fucking blown away! It was fucking amazing. It was mostly shit that never got released actually, he just had them on dub and pass'em to people… So I told Gino that we had to get this guy in this crew. He went out to San Francisco to do a show and ended up running into Joe and Joe joined the crew. So it was like this ever-expanding thing…

It was weird. The Log Cabin had this very communal… We would hang out EVERY night. Everybody in the crew had dreads at one point. It was like living in some strange commune, like this militaristic caboose, like everybody had everybody's back. Every night, we'd get together and freestyle for 8 hours. If you went to Kamal's house, there's hours and hours of Log Cabin freestyles. We'd go to the beach by Kamal's dad's house and just fucking rap! It was gross.

And the Workforce was the complete opposite of it. For the most part, it was like "maybe, I'll hang out with these guys, ehh, not really…" I've always loved hanging out with Subtitle. His energy is so addictive and he's always got an idea. It's brilliant to be around him. Tomorrow's always gonna be the best thing is working on, he's always working on the best album is ever down right now… It's really great. Even if he does a song and I don't like it that much, when I hear him talk about it I'm like "Yeah! I love it! This is great, maybe I want to listen to it correctly". It's always been like that. Gino and I, we have fights, we'd get at each other's throats, we'd fall out, we won't talk for a couple months and then I'll talk to him outta the blue and it'd be like "I can't believe I haven't talked to this guy in so long! I love this guy!" The energy was like that at first and then, like any friendship, especially a very loose friendship like that, a girl got involved, money and stupid little shit… Kinda falling out… Because of my personnality, I've never been good in crews. I'm kind of an egomaniac. You'll see tonight : Brian is out there trying to do his thing and I'm fucking dancing, picking up the keyboards and yelling! I can't do the crew thing. I always make an ass outta myself and piss everybody off around me so…

HHC: What about your work with Xololanxinxo?

A: I met Danny (Xolo) one night at a DJ Truly Odd birthday party. We had gone to some events at UCLA and we went there with Shovelhead Shaun from Mush and a couple of his buddies and Kamal. We met Xolo and 2 Mex there. I'd met 2Mex once or twice before but I'd never met Xolo. And the first thing off of his mouth, he just started rippin' on me like "What do you wear? Look at this fucking white boy!". I was like "Wow, I love this guy!" so he and I just hung out all night and we kinda dissed everybody else who was at the Truly Odd party. And we just ragged on each other all night. It was great and we just clicked.

He saw an opportunity because I was a dude that was sort of trying to get my name out producing and I saw an opportunity because he was kind of a dude who did have his name out. I did that "Tapes from a stolen car" for free. I would just drive back and forth to his house and he would come to my house and we'd make music. In the long run it was good for me because he sold a shitload of 'em and he's one of those dudes that will put it out forever. He'll never let that shit get out of print! We would just hang out and sometimes he had those very lucid moments, he knows exactly what he wants to do with his career. He's older than a lot of rappers in LA, not super old but in his mid-thirties, so he can look at things from a very adult perspective. But occasionally, he backflies into dumb rapper shit and it's funny. We flew together to Hawaï to do a show with Kamal and he and I sat next to each other and he's extremely lucid and intelligent. As an artist, he's brilliant. A lot of the stuff you hear him in, it's so great, he's freestyling. That song on "Tapes from a stolen car" with all the samples from "Frankenstein", we recorded it while I was in college and I had all these books. He laid them all out on the floor and he would pick words randomly off the backs of them and he wrote this entire song like that! I made the beat and we had that song done in two hours. I was like "that's awesome!!!" It was awesome to be around that at 20 years old. He's a genius. He's fucking dope to work with when he comes in and he's got his shit together. There's not a lot of rappers that can fuck with him.

HHC: Do you plan to work with him or Subtitle in the near future?

A: I got a record coming out on Mush, part of three EP series. The first EP "Run" came out and we're gonna re-issue it. I've remixed that 'cause it was all really low quality. It was when I first got Pro-Tools and I was learning how to mix on it… Anyway, Subtitle's on one of the EP's along with Les McCann. For the second EP, I'm talking to a girl called Scout Niblett, a sort of country modern singer and hopefully I'll also get a track from Tekilatex. I'm hoping he's rapping it in English because I think the States are ready for Teki right now. It's hard to break the market in the States but he's such a good rapper and so clever and so funny that I think that if he came out with a song in English in America it should be fucking huge. The third EP, I'm gonna have Xinxo, even if he doesn't know yet, and maybe I'll get Andrew Broder to sing on it, but it's still up in the air. The rest will be instrumental and I'll sing on a couple of songs.

Interview by Cobalt
Photos by Nicolanifanta
May 2005

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