Tuesday 1 February 2011

DJ Format & Sureshot La Rock Interview

Step 1: take a dope break, loop it and flip it
Step 2: add crispy drums and bake for an hour or so
Step 3: let the MC catch the vibe then press record
Step 4: add a catchy chorus or vocal hook
Step 5: drop some cuts & scratches where necessary
Produce that shit, press it up, then push it!

If only making the perfect hip hop record was as easy as following these 5 simple steps above, but if it was so then everyone would be making dope music now wouldn't they? And we all know that ain't the case with new music lately, as I definitely hear more drivel than dynamite these days. But every so often I am pleasantly surprised and comforted to learn that real hip hop music is alive and kicking, and just as good as it ever was, as long as you know where to look for it.
I could download all the music I ever need using this marvellous Internet invention thingy, but don't forget I'm a vinyl fiend of the highest order so mp3s don't mean shit to me - I need a record in my hand and a label to read you hear me? I have shelves here at the DAILY DIGGERS HQ that need filling with 12" and 45s.
Thankfully there's a few bright lights shining in 2011 and once again I have vinyl projects to be excited about. I had heard a few months ago that there was a possibility of a collaboration between DIGGERS WITH GRATITUDE former frontman & hip hop connoisseur SURESHOT LA ROCK, and Brighton's own DJ FORMAT. Hmmm I thought at the time, this could be the meeting of 2 hip hop superpowers right here. FORMAT is known for his exceptional production qualities and strict old school heritage, and I can tell you that what he doesn't know about records possibly ain't worth knowing. You will have all heard his LP and work with JURASSIC 5 and ABDOMINAL. And as for his trademark b-boy anthems, well you could be mistaken for thinking you are hearing an unheard or brand new STEINSKI mix - the quality is that good. This time he brings his beat rocking talents together with SURESHOT's ever precise delivery on the mic. Someone who studies hip hop like SURESHOT does knows exactly what the real hip hoppers want to hear from an MC, and there's no disappointment likely on "Dope Pusher" or "Mr DJ". This is a wack free zone guaranteed! And you would be wrong to think that this is the first time SURESHOT has blessed the mic, if you read below you will see these 2 dudes got experience with a capital E! Their first collaboration on 12" wax was released yesterday on PROJECT BLUE BOOK records and is available through Rarekind, Piccadilly, Phonica, Fat City, Juno, Chemical, Seismic, Rough Trade, Norman Records, Banquet, Jumbo, Hum Records, HHV and Groove Distribution(in the USA). Take a peep at the video for "MR DJ" and enjoy the interview with DJ FORMAT & SURESHOT LA ROCK below. "Mr DJ" is the ultimate in harmony between a DJ and MC. A seductive bassline and hypnotic keys bring in the rhymes and SURESHOT reveals how his DJ is "master of the mixboard" with "beats bumrushing!". FORMAT is obviously primed, prepared and ready to rip the turntables to shreds! The marriage between SURESHOT's rhymes and the vocal hooks cut in by DJ FORMAT are simply sublime. Play me a better DJ track and I will show you a pig that flies! The old school energy is right there in the mix too, so don't sleep - pick up your copy before they're all gone.

A1 Mr D.J. (Vocal Version) 4:12
Vocals - Sureshot La Rock
A2 Mr D.J. (B-Boy Version) 3:41

B1 Dope Pusher (Vocal Version) 3:31
Vocals - Sureshot La Rock
B2 Here Comes The Dope Pusher! 4:05
B3 Dope Beats


KID DYNO: Please tell us how you two hooked up in the first place?

FORMAT: We met through working on the LUNGBUTTERS mix cd together for DWG. we just hit it off because of our similar tastes in old hip hop and both wanted to make the same kind of songs that ignored modern styles or trends..plus we soon discovered we had the same chronic OCD that made us keep trying to perfect minor details that no sane person would even notice or care about!

KID DYNO: SURESHOT, this isn't your first time on the microphone. Please tell us a little about your early material.

SURESHOT LA ROCK: I used to run with the TEAM DEMOLITION family until heading off to college at James Madison University.
Once there, I hooked up with Libra Records and was invited to NYC to record a cut with El P (of Company Flow). Anttex, who was A&R for the label, liked what he heard and signed me to a deal. I dropped one 12", "Junglez of the East", and had another slated to be released called "Why?", but I left the label before it came out. After graduating, I recorded off and on -- dropped a promo for Marley and Pete Rock's "Future Flavas" show and dabbled in a few things here and there, but never focused on making a record. I had also recorded a joint with Chief Kamachi that never saw the light of day. All that's left of my earlier recordings are a handful of pre-Libra demos and a few cuts that were recorded for the LP I was working on while at Libra.

KID DYNO: FORMAT, MR DJ is obviously a "DJ record", taking it back to the days when the MC relied on his DJ who in turn vibed off the rhymes. So was the chemistry between you two instant and how did you bridge the Atlantic?

FORMAT: Yeah we really were instantly on the same wavelength because as soon as i played SURESHOT the beats,he seemed to have the level of understanding that a DJ or producer would have. He was happy to simplify his flow in certain places in order for the vocal samples to work and at other times he would get a bit more technical when the song allowed.
I think most MC's want to make themselves the main focus of attention at all times but a song like this needs a real understanding of when to keep it simple.
We talked on skype for hours at a time just brainstorming & trying out ideas together,then SURESHOT would record rough vocals at his place and send me the accapella mp3s and I'd put it all together and play around with it. I think the more we did,the more ideas we kept having and SURESHOT helped with vocal samples and i helped with rhymes because a song like MR DJ needs total collaboration to work properly.

SURESHOT LA ROCK: Actually "Mr. DJ" was originally going to be an instrumental track, but as soon as I heard it I HAD to write rhymes for it. The process was very organic and collaborative -- Format was open to my suggestions and I to his.
We wanted to create something a bit different... Something not so traditional as far as song structure was concerned. So we ditched the standard standard 16 or 20 bar verse followed by 4 or 8 bar chorus pattern (lather, rinse, repeat) in favor of something that just made sense. Our goal was to keep the listener interested, not knowing what to expect. It took a lot of time to get right, but I believe we achieved the desired effect. The back-and-forth, call-and-response type stuff required a LOT of collaboration.

KID DYNO: I quote from the 12" - "the perfect blend of the new and the old school"; Please describe in the fewest words the perfect hip hop record?

FORMAT: I think ULTRAMAGNETIC MC'S-CRITICAL BEATDOWN is a perfect hip hop record but i guess that's just down to personal taste & opinion. On a personal note i honestly feel that MR DJ is the most perfect hip hop song I'VE ever made..i mean everyone else could hate it but for me it's the record I've always wanted to make.
I tried that style before on RAP MACHINE with ABDOMINAL and I'm still proud of that song but MR DJ for me is the most perfect balance of beats,rhymes & cuts that i've ever achieved..thanks to SURESHOT of course!

SURESHOT LA ROCK: Sureshot and Format! Seriously though, I'm not sure I can describe it... You just know it when you hear it. It's a record that isn't afraid to reach back to its roots for inspiration while taking risks to present it in a new way. It should remind you why you fell in love with hip-hop in the first place.

I think Format makes a great point with Ultra. Their sound was traditional, but advanced.

KID DYNO: What other material can we expect from you guys?

SURESHOT LA ROCK: We've recorded four songs so far and are working on two more for the LP. Having said that, as long as Format continues making ridiculously dope tracks, there's no way I can put down the pen! Every time we speak, he's playing some amazing break or sample -- it's out-of-control! We've worked on another three or four cuts that are great, but were scrapped because they didn't fit the sound of Format's LP. Given how well we work together, I'd like to think we'll continue to create, but tomorrow's never given.
At this point, we're focusing on knocking out the final two songs before we start on the other ideas we've kicked around.

FORMAT: Yeah and one of those songs will feature PHILL MOST CHILL!

KID DYNO: FORMAT, how do you go about constructing a beat? Do you hear a sample first then build on it, or is it more organic?

FORMAT: I usually hear a (musical) break and get excited/inspired and build things from there. once things start to take shape i can decide if the track will work best as a rap song,an instrumental or maybe something for a singer..i really just look for other samples that fit and see how things develop.

KID DYNO: In terms of record collections, do you have similar tastes in hip hop music?

SURESHOT LA ROCK: Fundamentally, our tastes are similar -- the Golden Era was where it was at! We do, however, have some points of departure... For instance, Format has a Miami fetish (especially for scratch tracks) whereas I might get into some of the jazzy mid-90s stuff. I'm also a HUGE fan of the old school. I actually rate it as highly as I rate stuff from the late 80s -- and in some cases even moreso!

FORMAT: Yeah i think we have pretty similar tastes in older hip hop but SURESHOT definitely likes more mid-late '90s rap than i do. For me that was a time when rhyming got more serious and beats/production got boring so i stopped enjoying most hip hop after about '95/'96 and only liked the occasional record. I was yearning for the '80s when DJ's were still an important part of any group/crew and when hip hop was so often built around james brown breaks!

KID DYNO: In your opinions what is missing, if anything, in much of the "rap" music we hear these days?

SURESHOT LA ROCK: Ultimately, music is about expression and I'm not one to tell someone how they should or shouldn't make it. If they're feeling what they're doing, the more power to them. If they're in it to make a quick buck, I wish them the best of luck. It doesn't mean I'm going to like it, but I try not to bitch about it.

Having said that, I think it's fairly safe to say that hip-hop, as a whole, has lost its creative direction. There was a time where the goal was to sound different... To be unique. Now it's all about sounding like the next man. Even a lot of underground stuff suffers the same fate.

From say 86 or 87 through 90 or 91, you could go into a record store blindfolded, be placed in front of the hip-hop section, and asked to pull out five records.
After grabbing the wax and taking off the blindfold, you might come up with something like Stetsasonic, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Ultramagnetic MCs, and Master Ace. NONE of them sounded alike... Not ONE! Go back and do it again... This time you might pull Bizmarkie, Eric B & Rakim, De La Soul, 2 Live Crew, and NWA. Again -- all different. Come back a few years later and you'd be grabbing things like Main Source, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Brand Nubian, Show & AG... Every one of these artists brought something different to the table.

I don't think you can say that about today's group of rap artists.

FORMAT: I think exciting breaks/samples are missing and the fun is definitely missing because everyone takes themselves too seriously..i mean i take my music seriously but i have fun making it and i hope that comes across when you listen. Most MC's just don't appeal to me nowadays but i'm not sure exactly why..they just don't have the personality & individuality of the MC's that i grew up loving.

KID DYNO: Who else for you guys is making big noise right now in the hip hop world? mcs or producers etc.

SURESHOT LA ROCK: I'm not sure I can list anyone as making "big noise" on my personal radar.
That's not to say everyone is wack... I like some new stuff -- I just can't think of anyone off the top. And if I can't do that, can I say they're making big noise? I'm always interested in hearing what Edan has up his sleeve. Breeze Brewin is probably my favorite MC from the last fifteen years. Oxygen is nice, Ras Beats is making some noise on the production side of things... There are a few I'm forgetting to mention... I wish there were more.

FORMAT: I don't really follow much modern hip hop but i love OXYGEN and can't wait to hear his project with DJ SPINNA when they get that finished. I guess i mostly listen to music from the '60s and don't really keep up with what hip hop is being released now.

KID DYNO: Any shouts or big-ups?

SURESHOT LA ROCK: I threw a few out on "Dope Pusher"... Need to save the rest for our next cut.

FORMAT: A shout out to MR KRUM for the dope artwork!


Mac McRaw said...

Good work Dyno ...

Anonymous said...

Dope stuff i already knew format was a beatjunky but yo! sureshot got skills to pay the bills.

Anonymous said...

This certainly is a competently conducted interview with a pair of interesting gentlemen.

Daily Diggers said...

thanks for your comments everyone, I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did doing it. These 2 funky dudes have plenty more funky stuff to come real soon. Stay tuned, we'll have the scoop right here on Daily Diggers.

Kid Dyno