December 1994: it is a Saturday and Iâ€™m listening to Tim Westwoodâ€™s show â€“ shortly after Westwoodâ€™s descend from Capital Radio to Radio 1 â€“ it is late and, yes, while it is illegal, I hit play and record on the tape deck. The first song that evening is mellow horns, Jeep-ready drums and laid back flow. It is everything you could ask for in a tune. I waited anxiously for the end of the song, hoping Westwood hadnâ€™t shouted out the artists before he dropped the record. â€œThatâ€™s Black Moon, the hot remix of â€˜Iâ€™ve Gotcha Open,â€™â€ he says. I saved my pocket money for three weeks after that night, Â£30 in total: Â£10 for the train fare up to London; Â£10 for the Whut? Thee Album; and Â£10 for Enta Da Stage.
Nearly thirteen years later, Evil Dee is reaching London properly, for the first time. Alongside his brother Mr. Walt, Evil Dee provided the musical backdrops for some of hip-hopâ€™s best loved anthems. The rolling bass, the rugged beats and the jazzy flourishes on top made the Boot Camp Click one of the cornerstones of New Yorkâ€™s bid to bring hip-hop back to The Big Apple after Snoop and Dre had flown it out West for a while. And the formula that put them on top back in the early `90s hasnâ€™t changed at all, despite the industryâ€™s obsession with first week numbers and sales projections.
The Brooklyn born DJ and producer is in good spirits before his show. He has busy months ahead of him with the imminent recording of a new Black Moon album, a podcast thatâ€™s doing platinum numbers and the birth of a child. For the record, he has already decided the first drum machine Mini Dee will be using.
â€œOnly cats I donâ€™t see are the owners of Rawkus. Theyâ€™re hiding. They disrespected hip-hop.â€
Format: Working from the present and going back; youâ€™ve just started your own podcast. What made you decide to do that?
Evil Dee: I was going to start putting mixtapes out again, because a lot of people keep requesting them. So I was getting ready to do that and the day I was going to buy all the new equipment, DJ Drama got arrested. When that happened I was about to invest a good $9000 to $10,000. When that happened I thought maybe I should chill for a sec and see how this turns out, because I didnâ€™t want to buy all that equipment and then be stuck. So while I was doing that, my man DJ Crazy Bizarro was like â€˜Yo, Iâ€™m doing this podcast you should do one.â€™ I was like â€˜Nah, man.â€™
So one day he finally showed me his numbers. He said that all he did was put a picture up of me and him sitting on my stoop, kicking it on the cover of his podcast and he had mad people hitting him up like â€˜Yo, where Evil Dee at? Whatâ€™s up with him?â€™ So, thatâ€™s when I said, â€˜Maybe I should make that happenâ€™ and I just did it. Ten-thousand people hit the first podcast! Iâ€™m thinking, thatâ€™s kinda hot! Second podcast went up to 300,000. So I was like â€˜This is crazy!â€™ Now, Iâ€™m on a million. Iâ€™m on my sixth podcast. And this is not a million altogether, itâ€™s per show. So the podcast is like a new mixtape. So everybody can get a free taste of the flavor. A mixtape was a promotional item, anyway. Podcasts are the same thing, except now instead of you getting it at a store, you download it in your iPod for free. If you donâ€™t have an iPod you just hit the page and press play.
Format: In terms of when you were getting a start in the production game, who influenced you?
Evil Dee: My brother and The Bomb Squad, 45 King â€“ it was a combination of everything that was out at that time. Thatâ€™s kind of how I got inspired. When youâ€™re a DJ and you get two copies of a record and cut it up, youâ€™re producing a version of the record. You might be a producer already. When youâ€™re at a party, youâ€™re producing that party. A lot of people donâ€™t know that, but thatâ€™s what it is. All DJs are producers.
Format: What do you prefer: producing or deejaying?
Evil Dee: Right now, Iâ€™ll say DJing, but tomorrow Iâ€™ll say production. I have fun DJ-wise. When Iâ€™m at a party itâ€™s about seeing people rocking to what Iâ€™m playing. Because Iâ€™m a DJâ€™s DJ, Iâ€™m not a fad DJ. What I do when I go into a party, I analyse how the party is going like â€˜Alright, if I drop this recordâ€¦â€™ I think as I play. A lot of DJs donâ€™t do that. Youâ€™ll see me look at the crowd. Thatâ€™s how youâ€™re supposed to do things. I treat it like how a boxer would train. If Iâ€™m DJing with somebody, I study their style. I look up their stuff, see if they got anything on YouTube or whatever and I study it. And thatâ€™s what bugs people out. Even coming over [London], I kind of looked around, listened to BBC. Itâ€™s funny, `cause I listened to a couple of shows and I was like â€˜OK, now thatâ€™s not really whatâ€™s going on over there.â€™ Just like in America; on your radio they only play a certain type of thing. What they want to hear. Also, one thing that I do know is that people hire me to be me. But at the same time I want see what youâ€™re rocking so I can bounce off that.
Format: Serato or Vinyl?
Evil Dee: Vinyl! Who would prefer Serato? Seratoâ€™s good for convenience, but vinyl, all day. If it was up to me, Iâ€™d bring my ten crates worth, but Iâ€™m not trying to lose records along the way.
Format: Like the infamous crate of records that got lost on the way back from Japan?
Evil Dee: We bought $20,000 worth of records and tried to ship it home. Why did we do that? That was the last time I saw those records. That was two cases of records. We shipped three. One came through.
Format: You remember what records they were?
Evil Dee: Records that Iâ€™d never seen before. Some of them, Iâ€™ve never seen again. There was like alternate versions to records. In Japan, as a DJ, youâ€™re going to find a lot of records. A lot of records youâ€™ve never heard of before, so we went crazy. And then I was seeing all these jazz breaks. We bought way more funk and soul than hip-hop out there. But the fact remains, we shipped it home and it disappeared in customs. All the rap stuff was not that bad, but it was the funk and soul. I had records, Iâ€™d never seen, like James Brownâ€™s Live At The Apollo â€“ the Japanese version!
Format: Itâ€™s been 10 years since Soundbombing. Do you still see all the cats who were part of that?
Evil Dee: I see almost everybody. Talib, I always see him. Mos Def, Shabaam Shadeeq. RA The Rugged Man, I havenâ€™t seen him in a minute, but you know once in a while. A lot of cats who were on that tape I see. The Artifacts, too. I see Tame One. I see them separately, because the groupâ€™s not together any more. I see almost everyone. Only cats I donâ€™t see are the owners of Rawkus. Theyâ€™re hiding. They disrespected hip-hop.
Format: Isnâ€™t Rakus coming back out again with some new acts?
Evil Dee: But you donâ€™t see those dudes.
â€œI think when Pro-Tools got introduced it made it convenient for a lot of suckers to get in the game.â€
Format: As far as the music goes youâ€™ve always stayed true to your initial formula. Were you surprised, given the current climate of hip-hop that Buckshot and Sean Pâ€™s albums have done so well?
Evil Dee: Iâ€™m not surprised, because thereâ€™s a want and need for what we do. Thereâ€™s a want and a need for boom-bap. Itâ€™s like a girl â€“ you see that she looks banging, youâ€™re like â€˜Yo, sheâ€™s dope!â€™ now, youâ€™re going to mess with other girls, but youâ€™re going to have that girl on your mind and if you can get her, youâ€™re going to get her. Thatâ€™s what it is. Thatâ€™s hip-hop right now. We have a lot of fad music coming out. You know what happens with fads? They come and they go. No oneâ€™s making classics right now. Me and DJ Spinna just had this conversation this morning.
Format: If you could get any vocalist on a Beatminerz beat, who would you choose and why?
Evil Dee: If I could, Sly Stone, because he was just funky with it. I would like to do something with George Clinton. George Clinton over a Beatminerz track? Hip-hop-wise, Redman and Method Man.
Format: Besides the radio shows, you write as well, too. What was your best interview?
Evil Dee: Madlib. And itâ€™s the illest story. Madlib doesnâ€™t do interviews. If you notice when he does interviews itâ€™s always with the same person?
Format: Egon from Stones Throw.
Evil Dee: Yeah, Egon does a lot of his interviews. What happened was a friend of mine had a magazine called Mugshot and she was like, â€˜Yo, E. Iâ€™ve got an interview with Madlib and I donâ€™t know what to ask him. Could you do it for me?â€™ I was like, â€˜Yeah, alright.â€™ I told Madlib to meet me at this record store called A1 in New York. And as soon as I walk in he was like â€˜Yo, I been dying to meet you!â€™ and thatâ€™s how the interview started. The respect was there. We sat down and talked about different techniques. There was a lot of stuff I didnâ€™t put in the interview, because it was too deep, we were talking about recording techniques and we were talking about jazz music. Chemistry was there. Thatâ€™s the best interview I did.
Format: If thereâ€™s one thing you miss about hip-hop in the `90s what would you say it is?
Evil Dee: Hard beats. Kanyeâ€™s trying it, but thank God weâ€™ve got Premier. If I had it my way there would be a whole lot of things different. Weâ€™d still be rocking on tape. I wouldnâ€™t have got on the Pro-Tools. Thereâ€™s so many things, too many to mention. Basically, weâ€™d be recording like back in the day. I think when Pro-Tools got introduced it made it convenient for a lot of suckers to get in the game. Now that dude who was the herb around the way has got Pro-Tools and heâ€™s so hot. One of the problems with hip-hop, too, is that we have so many followers, we have no more leaders.
Format: So which drum machines are you feeling at the moment?
Evil Dee: SP-1200, Akai 950, MPC 2000 XL and then I use a lot of Pro-Tools plug-ins, the instruments, but donâ€™t get it twisted, my beats are still my beats.
Format: Just focusing on Boot Camp Clik for a second, are you going to be producing tracks for the next Heltah Skeltah album?
Evil Dee: I really donâ€™t know. Iâ€™ll be honest with you. Thatâ€™s more of a Heltah Skeltah call, because theyâ€™ve got to be ready. As for a new Black Moon album weâ€™re putting the elements together for it now. I started making beats for it. Weâ€™re going to Japan next week so weâ€™ll have a meeting over there.
Format: What was the deal with the beat tapes you guys were putting out?
Evil Dee: You know whatâ€™s funny? I was cleaning out my house, because my moms just passed.
Format: Sorry to hear that.
Evil Dee: Itâ€™s cool. Sheâ€™s in a better place. Cleaning out the house, I found demos that Iâ€™d done. Itâ€™s crazy she kept everything!
â€œâ€¦one thing that I will say: hip-hop has tried to hide Black Moon.â€
Format: Are those the ones with you rhyming, back in the day?
Evil Dee: Yeah. I know my place! Thatâ€™s why I donâ€™t rhyme now. Although people said it was dope, I didnâ€™t think it was. I had my own style and everything, but I just thought I did music better. As for the other tapes â€“ let me tell you the truth about that. We did a bunch of remixes that never came out. I decided to leak it out. But in order to get it out, I disguised it as an instrumental album.
Format: How did you come to do the remix of Dâ€™Angeloâ€™s â€œBrown Sugar?â€
Evil Dee: That was because his manager at the time was real cool with us. I was the first one to play â€œBrown Sugarâ€ on radio, period. So, when I did that. His manager, at the time, who ran Motown, was like â€˜Yo, why donâ€™t you do a remix for it?â€™ So thatâ€™s how that went down.
Format: How did you get Kool G Rap on it?
Evil Dee: What happened was, first we were going to use Rakim, but he was too busy. Then they were running around trying to get people and I was like â€˜Yo, B. You manage G Rap, letâ€™s get him.â€™ It was all in the family.
Format: You heard Funkmaster Flexâ€™s July 4 `90s set, he was spinning as much of your music as he was the Wu.
Evil Dee: I heard it. You know what it is. And this is one thing that I will say: hip-hop has tried to hide Black Moon. We donâ€™t get credit for what weâ€™ve done. Who brought hip-hop back to the east coast, Black Moon! Wu-Tang, Nas, you could say Biggie, too. Not much else was hitting that hard. They try to erase Black Moon all the time. But the heads know, so I donâ€™t mind. The proofâ€™s in the pudding. Black Moon does a show and it sells out. Somebody bigger does a show and it doesnâ€™t. Thatâ€™s the proof right there.
Format: Can you finish the following sentence: Evil Dee isâ€¦
Evil Dee: On the mix! Come on, kick it!
More Info: http://www.myspace.com/djevildee
Photos By: Jimmy Mould of Reverend Media
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