P-Diddy – ‘Come To Me (K-Def Remix)’ (Unreleased)
So here it is: part one of an extensive interview I did with K-Def recently. A great interviewee, he sheds light on a whole range of subjects including projects from the past, present and future as well as getting into some of the intricacies of his production processes in what has to have been my most enjoyable interview to date. Audio-wise, as well as the link to the free EP with Dacapo, I’ve also included an unreleased remix that K-Def produced for Diddy. Get that mouse button clicking!
This first part includes discussion of the World Renown LP, the unreleased albums from both Sah-B and De’1 as well as a K-Def’s feelings about the issues surrounding sampling in the contemporary game. In the second half of the interview dropping on Wednesday we cover his current production set-up, approach to digital downloads and even reminisce over his personal favourites from his truly slammin’ back catalogue. To finish off the week, I’ll also be deconstructing one of my favourite beats from the Real Live LP. Celebrate: it’s K-Def week people!
From Da Bricks: Let’s start with some of the projects that you’ve worked on that never saw a full release. Why did Warner decide to shelve the World Renown LP?
K-Def: Wow… at the time I think Warner Bros was dealing with a merge and their rap department basically wasn’t doing that great. It was a subsidiary called Reprise, the urban department they had at Warner. It really wasn’t lifting off the ground, I think they had like The Bush Babees, a couple of other groups… When we had all the albums done, or almost done, I don’t think Sah-B’s album got done but I believe De’1’s album was pretty much done ‘cos I did a couple of other records with him that nobody ever heard that didn’t get released. What happened was that the Elektra/WEA system was shutting down and they were merging with Atlantic and a lot of other companies and at that time a lot of the independent subsidiary companies off the majors were all folding. Sah-B only had a single, but we were working on the album at the time, but eventually they just said that Warner was folding. Nobody really went into depth with it, but I don’t believe it was because of the projects because as far as I’m concerned I really believe the World Renown album was a great album, it had a lot of great stuff and it was for that time. But I don’t know, I couldn’t really even tell you the full 100% reason why it didn’t come out, but what I do know is that the record label itself just went under.
FDB: The Sah-B album must have been pretty close because it states on the back of the ‘Summa Day’/ ‘Some Ol’ Sah-B Shit’ 12’’ that the album was imminent.
KD: Right. I think Atlantic had something to do with it as well, from all the stuff that was going on. I don’t think they wanted Warner to be a rap label, they wanted to keep it more to the movies and the rock/pop stuff. I’m pretty much sure that Marley Marl has everything in the vault still so the albums do exist so maybe at the right time they’ll be released one day. I released the World Renown on my MySpace and I didn’t have the full master copies of it, just an old tape of it. I cleaned it up as much as possible and just reissued it out because I was trying to get it from Marley at the time but we didn’t come to a conclusion on having it released. The year somebody comes around with the right paperwork and the right business maybe the albums can be released. I can definitely let you know that the World Renown was definitely completed, I’m not quite sure if Sah-B’s album was ever completed and I’m pretty much sure that De’1’s album was completed. As far as why they didn’t come out, I don’t know… Marley has it so I think it will just be a matter of when he lets loose.
FDB: With the internet it would seem like the right time to do it, wouldn’t it?
KD: I would think so. That’s what’s selling right now, CDs and albums aren’t selling that much but downloads are of course really big, so I would think that would be the best way to go about it. There’s so much bootlegging and stuff going on, and I think that’s the reason why a lot of stuff hasn’t been released yet, because you release something now and a few months later another country has got the record and is selling it too, so once they can change those laws and fix that, I guess a lot of vintage stuff that happened in the early ’90s will get released.
FDB: How has the World Renown album done on downloads?
KD: For it to be 13/14 years for it to be released… it’s not doing that great. If people know about it, but it just took so long that it was just like, ‘I want to get the album but it’s not my top priority now because it is what it is,’ you know? I had intended to put it out a few years ago, I was going to put it out with Marley, we had somebody that was going to put it out but that didn’t work out. After that, everything just tapered off and died off. I just got frustrated and was like, ‘You know what, I got a copy of it I might as well go ahead and put it out, I know they’ll be a few cats who’ll buy it.’ It’s not the best quality as if it came out the studio fully mastered but it is the full-length songs where nobody else really has it and anybody who does have a copy it sounds terrible. I figured it’s great for history for it just to be out. It sells, but it doesn’t sell a whole lot.
FDB: Am I right in thinking that Seven Shawn and John Doe are Marley’s cousins?
KD: John Doe is Marley’s cousin and me and Seven Shawn are cousins, on distant paths, but we’re related. Basically that was a crazy time right there, John Doe just got out of jail and he said he wanted to do ten songs and hook up with Marley and come out with something. We did ten songs, Marley heard the beats, but wasn’t really feelin’ John Doe at the time and I started messin’ with the Lords Of The Underground right from there. Long story short after that it was all over with. John wound up hooking up with Seven Shawn maybe a year or two later down the line and we started working on their album. Those were the memorable golden days, the mid-‘90s was a great, great time, it was really great.
FDB: So tell me about some of the projects you’ve got coming up.
KD: K-Def is gonna have a lot of tracks coming out this year and it’s not gonna be through no majors, it’s gonna be all independent as far as I’m concerned and it’s gonna be all great, hot material, none of this throw together stuff. A lot of stuff I have from the ‘90s that was never heard before, those beats are gonna get released on certain albums. There’s gonna be a lot of great things going on. I got an album Beats From The ‘90s that will be dropping which is like all the instrumentals for stuff I did in the early ‘90s, stuff I did for Positive K, Artifacts, a lot of good instrumentals that will be appealing to the DJs to actually do blend mixes and have some of that old ‘90s culture that people are still trying to make today. I’m just doing a little bit of everything bro, I’m doing a whole lot of everything. I got so many beats that I’ve been doing. I got sample stuff, stuff that’s just strictly played with no samples at all.
FDB: You’ve mentioned there that you’re taking a range of approaches to composition now and sometimes playing over. What’s your approach to sampling now?
KD: The sampling that is going on now, I look at it like I really don’t try to change my style and I try to keep that same old sound, but use technology and engineering to make it sound clear like today’s music. A lot of people are just using MPCs and machines and that’s how I started at one time, but at some point you got to get older, more mature, you gotta use technology to your advantage and learn new technology. There’s a million and one records out there that still haven’t been used that you have to go out and search for, but a lot of these guys, nobody’s really doing it, but I’m doing it for sure. As far as what I’m trying to bring back, I’m trying to bring back that ‘90s sound but I’m trying to have it where it can go to mainstream because it’s so clear just like any other down south or mid-west record that’s out: it can compete with sound quality but still actually have samples in it.
When I was doing records in the ‘90s… ‘Funky Child’ had like five samples, but you know what, you take five samples that made a classic record for me but I never seen no publishing off it, I never ate off it, and I have to clarify this because people need to understand. If everybody’s keen on that ‘90s hip hop sound then there need to be someone to go to the lawyers and tell them that they need to make a new rule on publishing because in order for you to make those records that you did in the ‘90s then you gotta sample like five or six records in one song and if you do the math, everybody’s taking a percentage of your publishing and you’re not gonna eat. You get a whole lot of props but you ain’t making no money from it. I’ve been doing that for ten years! I’ve been sampling and doing what everybody wanted me to do for ten years on those machines and I didn’t make no money from it. You know why? Because I was just sampling, sampling, sampling, sampling, not knowing any better that there’s a strategic way to sample. A lot of the new guys that I see now, in the last five or ten years, they been sampling, sampling, sampling and they’re not doing it strategically where they can get away with doing it without clearing it. It’s not the same how it used to be and you have to be smarter now, because I know already that you’re not making any money off sampling. There has to be a new law behind that shit, where if you sample somebody’s record the publisher can’t take 50% of the record, they can only take say 30% and give the producer 20% because the producer did the work, you know what I’m sayin’? Until they can come up with that law, it’s gonna be rough, it’s gonna be really rough out there.
I’m keeping it real: I would love to do what I did in the early ‘90s and stay focussed on that with MPs and all that, but I do this not for the money, but to get better at my artform and to let the world know that I’m really good at what I do and that I have a great passion for it, but I still need to make money from it too because this is how I make my money and I’ve always been making my money like this since I was a teenager, you know what I’m sayin’? I can’t do that anymore: you gotta change with technology and that’s what K-Def did. As computers came onto the scene, I jumped right on the computers and started making music on the computers and I used that to my advantage. Now, I feel outta place trying to use an MPC again, it just doesn’t make sense. I can’t make a hit song like I did in the ‘90s, because the first thing I’m thinking is it’s going to take a whole bunch of sample to make this song and I’m not going to see no money. It’s a great record and it’s a hit record and everybody else who made the records in the ‘70s that I sampled from, they’re the ones that are eating from it and I’m sitting here twiddling my fingers with nothing and I did all the work for it. There has to be some kind of way where that changes. I just feel that they’re really hard on producers when it comes to sampling, but people still want to hear them because it’s what they love to hear, and yet producers are getting thrown into the shit every time!