DJ Kutdown & Ira Lee – Status Illete (1998)

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RR: Can we speak a bit about your first introduction to Ira Lee (then known as Rubix)? You mention in Third Verse that you immediately clicked and you ran out and got a Dr. Sample drum machine and a 4 track. Can you detail that decision?

DJ Kutdown: I first met Ira Lee in 1998, in Regina SK. I was moving furniture for a company that summer. It was some sort of domestic dispute between husband and wife, so there was a security guard there. The guard commented on my yellow NYC snapback and we started talking rap. I told him I’m a dj / producer and he said his good friend is a rapper. That night I believe we linked up with Ira, and we clicked. I had just moved to Regina and left all my gear with my good friend DJ Influence in thunder Bay. So that weekend I went to Long and Mcquade and financed a Dr rhythm, a Dr sample and a Fostex 4 track. We set that shit up on Ira’s grandmothers floor and started cracking out our first demo, as, Status Illete.

RR: How many tapes were recorded during this time period? Was it just one? And what happened to them? Did you spread them around at all? What were they called?

DJ Kutdown: I think we made 2 tapes, I still have one. We let people hear it but never made duplicates.

RR: You mention sending VHS tapes of Ira rapping back to Thunder Bay, would this be material that he was working on with you? Like live versions of tracks you recorded? Or material that we would know? Do you know if any of those VHS tapes still exist?

DJ Kutdown: We would make [those] VHS tapes of Ira freestyling and me beat juggling, scratching etc to send to my friends back east. We were kinda biting the turntable TV format, there was one edition where  Mixmaster Mike had Saafir rapping in his garage over asr 10 beats and turntable drumming etc. I believe I have one of those but….. If I do it’s buried.

RR: Do you have any stories related to recording the project(s) in Ira’s basement?

DJ Kutdown: I remember those days well. Ira and his boys accepted me in and we all grew our skills together at the same time. One thing I will never forget, and still think about is Ira’s grandfather. Ira lived with his grandparents. His grandmother was the sweetest lady, she was encouraging and thought the world of Ira. On the other hand his grandfather was very racist. He hated Ira, and made it obvious. It was terrible. I would knock on the door and his grandfather would open the blinds and walk away. It was awkward, I’d sit there for 10/15 mins knocking and listening to Ira fight with him over letting a fucking Italian inside. It was nuts. He was so mean and distant to Ira, I still don’t understand how Ira made it through all that living there. I guess the massive amount of love from his granny was enough to deal with it.

Ira Lee was my best friend for a lot of years, and we haven’t talked in about 12 years. If he reads this, I hope all is well my man. – Kut.

 

Fritz tha Cat – Early Demos

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RR: Regarding the first demo project you through together. Can you explain the extent of what it was? Did it have a name? When was it put out? How much material? And were copies simply dubbed from a 4trak?

Fritz The Cat: We never really had an official release. I had a group in high school called Stone Groove Trio, which was 3 MCs (Druid, B-Jamin, Slap (me) and a DJ Capital J. We did a gang of shows, and recorded a bunch of songs that were floating around on dubbed cassettes, but we never did an official release as the group petered out before we had enough material for a full album.

RR: On the insert of Genocide’s “For Your Mind” you were credited for the artwork under the name “Fritz Da Khat” with that spelling. When you were recording your early demo’s, is this the name you went by?

Fritz The Cat: I had a bunch of different names back then. I started off as Drang (rhymes with Strange), then went by Slap for a while, then Fritz tha Cat (with various spellings — hey, it was the 90s!!)

RR: You had started the magazine In Search of Divine Styler in the mid 90s, I’m curious, were there connections that were made from that magazine that helped you throw some of this demo material together? Production help, engineering, marketing, etc?

Fritz The Cat: The magazine came after the group. Basically Jon (Druid) moved away to Montreal for school so that ended the group. I recorded a few solo songs with Mike Bunsie and maybe a few other people, but then I got the idea to do the magazine thing and most of my creative energy went into that for the next couple of years, although I still freestyled a bunch with my dudes like B-Side, Jedi, Bolts, A-Flex, Transit, etc

RR: Do you have any stories related to working on the first demo, or promoting it afterwards?

Fritz The Cat: Lots of stories of shows. Playing a city-wide high school battle of the bands and having rockers spit on us (we didn’t win but got an honourable mention and one of the biggest crowd responses), or playing shows with our friends hippie band, or playing gigs at raves, all kinds of wild shit happened. I remember one gig in Ottawa in the winter and our friend’s car window got stuck open so we drove the whole way home in a blizzard with an open window. That sucked.

We had a great time. I think we had some magic and I used to be bummed that group ended before we put out an official album because I think we had some magic. But that’s life and now I look back with fond memories of the good times had. My dudes were really dope emcees, and I wish more people could have heard them. Jon (Druid) was one of the most gifted freestylers I’ve heard and had this natural effortless hype style that would kill at parties, and Ben (B-Jamin) had this super unique abstract vibe that is hard to describe but unlike anyone I’ve ever heard on the mic. And of course our DJ Capital J (Jason) was one of the best DJs of that era and is one of those guys who was just born in the turntables, incredibly creative, technical, and a pure showman too. He’s still DJing all over the world to this day.

Frek Sho – Untitled 12″ (1996)

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RR: At what point did you guys decide to drop the “The” in “The Frek Sho” even during the same year, in 1996, you have the Sho & Tell EP on cassette which has the name variation already in place. Also the logo becomes established.

Micill Shazzam Write: We don’t really remember lol but we are  sure that when Derek (gumball) designed the logo it looked better and more symmetrical without the “the” and it looked more alive instead of looking like an object.

RR: How many copies of the 12” did you press? And how did you go about raising funds for vinyl at the time?

Micill Shazzam Write: We made 500 vinyl and we paid for it our god damn selves

RR: Why not release this through P&C? It felt like that was the Winnipeg label that was making moves at the time with acts like Different Shadez, and Mood Ruff, and obviously the groups affiliation with the label runs deep.

Micill Shazzam Write: We were the 1st to drop vinyl and a video in our city. We ran our company totally different from p&c…plus they were our rivals who we didn’t feel close to musically at all during those times. As times changed we became closer to them because both crews gained a ton experience over the yrs which led to a mutual respect. Classy  guys!

RR: Do you have any stories regarding recording this project, putting it together, and promoting it?

Micill Shazzam Write: As for sho & tell it was just a release of new material foreshadowing the future releases and stage performance tracks like “Prime Suspect”.

The patients release was our “boot to the head, those peg city boys got the sound” type release.  We wanted to show the nation that brothas were hungry in Winnipeg and would beat each other to have a chance to express our love for hip hop culture . This led to the classic video Patience. We wanted to show that we are very serious about our craft and that we were going to add to Canadian hip hop culture history by Showing Hip Hop Originality (SHO).

Hand’Solo Records – Bassments of Badmen (1996)

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RR: Were you there for any of the live recordings that are on the record? Tachichi’s freestyle, Searchin’ For the Funk live recording, etc?

Thomas Quinlan: I was not there for any of the live recordings. In fact, I hadn’t even been to Halifax by that point. For me, these were just dope songs I got from Jorun. He sent me a whole bunch of live and studio recordings from which I was able to make my requests for the compilation. I think a bunch of the live songs were supposed to be for an instalment of his Haltown Meltdown series, Haltown Live.

RR: Were you aware of the beef that was happening between Hip Club Groove, Buck 65, and Jorun at the time of making this? Without context; tracks like Sucker Salad, you wouldn’t exactly know it was directed towards Jorun. Did you?

Thomas Quinlan: As an outsider to the scene, I was completely naive and unaware of the history of the scene or the situation as it stood at the time. I just knew there a bunch of dope rap was coming from there, and the interviews I did combined with the few releases I could get my hands on made it seem like it was a close scene of collaborators. Little did I know that the scene was divided between Jorun and his crew on one side and Buck 65 and his crew on the other. I just happened to reach out to both camps because they’re all I knew at the time.

And yes, there are a few disses to Jorun on this compilation. They’re also fairly subtle. I can’t say for sure if I knew about all of the disses ahead of time, but chances are likely that I did know to some degree. I probably just saw it as a temporary quarrel. Everyone seemed so close to my outsider eyes. And as a young rap fan just out of university, nothing is as good as a dope diss record.

RR: There’s a few artists on Bassments of Badmen that made no noise after, or really even before this release. Can you describe who artists such as Skillz, Fiz, The Nexxxt Stage and Karen Corbin are?

Thomas Quinlan: This is definitely a question best answered by Jorun. Skillz and Fiz were two rappers who were working with Jorun at the time. I don’t know very much about Skillz. There was a famous battle between him and Cheklove of Hip Club Groove that was the result of this divide in the scene. Fiz I know a little more about. He was partners with Witchdoc Jorun in Universal Soul. They had some releases, and I think they were making some noise. I’m not sure what happened to them.

As for The Nexxxt Stage and Karen Corbin, I can’t tell you much. Jorun put me onto The Nexxxt Stage and I figured they were bringing a different sound to the table so I invited them to submit something. Karen Corbin was their contact. I’m not sure what happened to them either. I wonder if they ever released anything else?

RR: Why not re-release this as the years have went on? Being that it’s such an important release, and such a rare gem to track down, I feel as though there would be a demand for a reissue like there was with Cock Dynamiks.

Thomas Quinlan: Oh yes, there is big demand for this. I’m sure people would eat it up now. I’d especially love to do a vinyl release for it. But it’s never going to happen. It would involve a lot of expensive licensing of songs, especially those from Buck 65 and Jorun. Tracking down some people for this would be a nightmare. And I think some people would be happy to just let these old songs rest. I’m just glad I received the OK from enough of the significant people on the release that they’d be open to a free download for the release so people are still able to get the music even if they can’t own a physical copy.

RR: Do you have any stories regarding the making of this project?

Thomas Quinlan: I don’t really have any stories about the recording of the tracks, which is probably the most exciting part of the process for stories. All of that was done in Halifax, while I was sitting at home in Toronto awaiting the submissions. I had reached out to the four people I knew in the Halifax hip hop scene, all having been interviewed for my ‘zine: Derek MacKenzie, Sixtoo, Buck 65 and Jorun. They did all the heavy lifting. I just picked the songs I liked the most and sequenced them. But it was also the first release for Hand’Solo Records, so everything was new territory for me. One of the things that was needed was a logo for the label, which was designed by Kharlo Tawatao, a friend of my then-girlfriend. It was a cool design, but as is still continually pointed out to me, it could read as Hand Job. In some ways, not so different from the actual name. That’s kind of funny, I guess. Still, it was replaced by the DJ logo on all subsequent Hand’Solo releases.

A big help on the success of this compilation is due to Marc Costanzo of Len. He helped get it distribution through his own distributor, Outside Music, and brought out Nathan the Alien, The Sebutones and Hip Club Groove to play a release party for the CD here in Toronto. Seeing Sixtoo and Buck 65 perform their second show ever as The Sebutones, this one in yellow hazard suits and slight face make up, as well as my one and only time seeing Nathan the Alien, were great moments I didn’t expect to come from my desire to create this compilation.

But the thing that sticks out most to me is when I attempted to shop the CD to stores in New York. I was making my first trip to NYC and the CD has just dropped. I figured I’d try to get it in some stores while I was there. Not a single bite. Props to the couple of stores that actually gave the music a try, even after my answer to “Where’s it from?” was “Halifax, Nova Scotia”. One store clerk even asked if they rap about fish and lobsters. So yeah, no bites. Whatever. It was just New York. What do they know about hip hop anyway?

DJ Epic – Running Back to Saskatoon (1997)

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Transcribed from an audio interview I conducted with Epic on 2018-08-14.

RR: How many of these tapes did you end up doing as DJ Epic?

Epic: That’s a good question maybe 3? Possible 3? Yeah.

RR: Can you explain exactly what was on these mixtapes? Did you rap on them?

Epic: Not on my own, I rapped on Knowski and Chaps’ mixtape around the same time. We loved DJing and we wanted to get music out to  people in the city and build/ increase the amount of people that liked the same rap music that we did and it was hard to get a lot of the music in Saskatoon. So we thought by putting theses out that we would expose people to the music that we loved and get people into the music

RR: Focusing on the tape “Running Back to Saskatoon” what year did this one come out? And how far along into the mixtape run was this?

Epic: Is that the one with Steezo on the first song? That’s a good question… 96? Maybe? I’m thinking 96’. What was the other question?

RR: How far along into the mixtape run was this?

I think it was the first one? Maybe it was the second? No it was the first one, It was the very first mixtape I believe. I know Troy (DJ Soso) and I did a split mixtape and I think this one came before that but I could be wrong. Ask Chaps he will know the order. Which one came first. But definitely Soso and I were the first people making mixtapes in the city.

*Chaps: The Epic and Soso split mix tape was the first one. Running back to Saskatoon was a couple years later.

RR: Do you remember the artists that are on it?

Epic: I remember we had Steezo’s song on it, and we had M-Phasis on it (a local rapper from our crew). I know we rented a 4 track [to get his voice on there.]

RR: Had you left Saskatoon at that point? Is that why the title of the tape is the way it is?

Epic: I was still living there. What was that popular rock song from way earlier? I think from the 70s. We just always used to think it was cool that there was a rock song that would mention Saskatoon. It was cool, because the guy in the song. (I think it was Randy Packman, could have been Burton Cummings) was talking about how he was at Saskatoon hanging out at libraries. [laughs]. And to us, Saskatoon was a boring place, we always dreamed of moving to a bigger city, and we used to always think that hanging out at libraries was always a Saskatoon thing to do. Like it was cool, it didn’t sound cool, but it was cool.

RR: Is there any way we could see rips of these online ever in the future?

Epic: I know I had given a couple tapes to Joe [Mr. Archive] from the Liquid Sunshine podcast. He came to visit me, and I gave him a couple tapes, and he ripped a few and put them online. I can’t remember which ones he took though.

I did go and look for a lot of my old tapes in storage though, and I do have Beat Comber mixtapes from a long time ago.

RR: Are there any stories that you remember for this release?

Epic: I just remember, going all over the city and selling it, and how the mixtapes would become more and more popular in the city. So that was pretty cool.

Tracklist:

SIDE A

  1. M-Phasis Intro – W Steezo – It’s My Turn
  2. Rass Kass – Soul on Ice
  3. Roots – What They Do
  4. OGC – The Storm
  5. Mobb Deep – God Pt. III
  6. Company Flow – 8 Steps to Perfection
  7. Charisma and Peanut Butter Wolf – Outro

SIDE B

  1. Intro – Farm Fresh, Sunil & Shazam shoutout.
  2. Rascalz – Clockwork Ft. Checkmate & Flip Out
  3. Non Phixion – Four W’s
  4. Homeless Derelix – Daily Operations
  5. 50 Grand and Peanut Butter Wolf – Max Mode
  6. Mystik Journeyman – Escape Forever
  7. OutKast – ATLiens

 

Tachichi & Moves – Truth of the Trade (1998)

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RR: To the best of my knowledge, you met Moves at a Hip Club Groove show at Mic Mac Mall. How soon after that original meeting did you start working together? Did any of the material on Truth of the Trade get recorded during the Little T days?

Tachichi: After I met Moves at Mic Mac Mall during an in store, I actually did a song with Jo Run. “Grab my steel” and then I actually did an album with Sixtoo called “He Who Laughs Last” we didn’t end up making copies because the Dat tape got ruined at the tape and CD manufacturers. All that happened during a year. So it was approximately a year later when we started making music. I was around 17

RR: This album is so incredibly diverse as you listen to it. You have a song like Boozehounds, which ends up being this light hearted playful song, with lots of transitions, then immediately afterwards you have The Last Laugh, which is a mixture of Vertex and OGC. Recording Truth of the Trade, what this intentional?

Tachichi: I did not do this intentionally at the time but we did want to make a diverse album when we got near the end. We just really enjoyed making music and literally had to stop doing songs for that particular album because we reached 90 minutes of music. Only a 90 minute tape could hold that so we ended it. We both wanted to have bangers with heavy lyrical content and cleverly funny stuff. That was our style then. We enjoyed sampling old movies or tv shows whether it making a beat out of them or using a sound bite.

RR: Were you able to see much success off of this record? Being pressed up in multiple formats, and how popular Halifax rap was across the country, I feel as though this would have granted you such a large audience. Especially with Sebutones, and the Anticon movement starting around that period of time.

Tachichi: I didn’t press up a lot of copies myself of that album and nor did Brian. We didn’t have much money then and since I was new at this “dropping album” thing we decided to do 100 tapes at first and the fact that there were so little copies made people just want the album more! People passing it around and word of mouth made distributors want to get in and make copies of the album on CD a few years later.  Our EP on vinyl that came out in 1999/2000 was the project that probably sold the most for us at the time. It was an EP of a couple new tracks like Choplifter and Heads up and of course Boozehounds 2. Across the country and the United States we were getting more and more notice. The underground scene with Anticon and Mr Dibbs in Cincinnati helped out a lot because of their momentum at the time and they liked our shit as well. We met Dibbs thru Buck 65 and Marc Costanzo from Len

RR: Do you have any stories regarding the creation process of this record? I feel like the original Halfway House must have granted lots of stories.

Tachichi: Ahh I don’t really remember anything too out of the norm for us recording the album. We always were drinking and we were at least half drunk or drunk during the recording of every song back then. Something I definitely couldn’t do now. I mean, I could but I couldn’t execute the songs to my higher level of expectations now then when I was a younger man.

One time Cee!!!!!!!! From the Drunken Arseholes fell off of a nine foot fence and hit his head during a session when we were having a smoke break out back. But he was totally fine so we kept the party poppin!! Lol

Truth of the Trade is by far the most fun, free and relaxed while ever making an album. It’s my personal favourite. Next is my latest album “Chico’s ‘90s project”.

Thanks

Moka Only – Upcoast Relix (1995)

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RR: During the intro to the record, you state that you recorded this between East Van, and Toronto. East Van makes sense, but what brought you to Toronto to record, this early in your career? This was before the whole Cryptik Souls Crew thing I imagine, right?

Moka Only: Around the mid 90’s I was pretty bent on getting my name out any way possible and I figured the easiest way to do it would be travel. I didn’t have a record deal at this time so making noise by way of rocking parties had been my go to  up to and through this juncture in my musical life. I had a few musical and graffiti friends that resided in the Toronto area and upon their invite I jumped on a plane and went out there. My Graff dudes introduced me to a couple cats in CSC, namely Planet Pea and Obie.  We hit it off immediately. These guys seemed like my east coast cousins. Our humor was similar as well as our influences and even our musical styles. Pea had a little basement studio so pretty much right off the bat we recorded a few songs.

RR: Had you released anything prior to this at all? Discogs shows no, the only thing I’m semi-familiar with is the QC Compilation. Do you happen to remember if that came out first? (Both show 1995).

Moka Only: No, I had not officially released anything substantial before Upcoast Relix.  Any acclaim I had gotten was based on live performances, freestyles and whatnot. The QC comp came out first, I believe…  I do not think it made its way out of British Columbia at that point though. Prevail and I had our group (Split Sphere) and were known for rocking all up and down the coast and we were in the process of forming Swollen Members around this time… I still wasn’t sure of whether I wanted to be in a group or not, hence I started stashing my solo recordings for the Upcoast tape.                   

RR: This was released on Rapstar Records, was that your own imprint you created for for Upcoast Relix, and just continued it forward? Did you ever plan on expanding this?

Moka Only: To be honest ‘rapstar’ was just a little joke… sort of self deprecating too as I barely had a proverbial ‘pot to piss in’  at the time, let alone the resources to actually run a label.

These tapes were just dubbed at home and covers printed at Kinkos. To this day im very amazed that the tapes had the legs that they had. Granted though at the time underground hip-hop was such a strong and thriving network that anybody who felt they were on the pulse of things went out of their way to share info, music, etc. It was like the internet  before we all had access to the actual internet. it really was an amazing time! I’m super grateful for it.

I never did have a real vision for Rapstar as a label though.  

RR: Legendary Entertainment re-released a lot of the Vancouver rap scene in the early 2000’s, this release included. What was your experience and involvement in re-releasing this?        

Moka Only: Oh it was pretty straightforward working with Chris from Legendary to re-release this stuff.  We just made an agreement and he remastered a few of the projects as well because some of the master tapes had really degraded in sound quality. Boy…when I listen to them today, even with the remastering they sure are dusty! Good grief!  haha.

RR: Lastly, do you have any stories regarding the recording process of this album? Or performing it upon its release?

Moka Only: The process for recording  was incremental as I didn’t have my own recording studio, nor equipment.  I had the fortune of my friends letting me work with them whenever an opening allowed and I could record in their basement. We would do a song and I would have a master cassette tape of the recording and take it home with me. Over a matter of months I had amassed enough material to put out an underground tape… these early tapes really were far from conceptual… they were more so compilations of my own stuff… As I’ve stated I didn’t have a record deal and the reality of getting one seemed pretty foreign at the time so I just used the model of what some of the bay area rappers were doing at the time; creating their own tapes and selling them on the street. When I look back at this era I just smile… I still can’t believe that it was enough to help jump-start my music career. It truly amazes me, the synchronicity of it all.  as for performing the material, yes… I did that as often as possible, any venue i could get my hands on too. This includes house parties, street block corners, open mics at clubs and then regular opening slots on hip-hop concert nights.