In a cold early february 2012, Brussels slept on Rasheed Chappell and his producer Kenny Dope Gonzalez. They were in town to introduce Rasheed’s album called « Future before Nostalgia » release on Kenny’s own Kay Dee imprint. A great album reminiscing of the boom bap era. Kenny had Serato problems, and to my great surprise, arrived in front of my door (Thanks to Simon Le Saint), borrowed my box and went to the venue. I took my chance and asked for an interview.The audience was very small and Rasheed didn’t get the opportunity to introduce us to his work. Kenny’s set was just awesome, he had fun behind the decks and we could feel it. On the next day, I met the boys at their hotel. The conversation lasted 30 minutes. We talked about Rasheed’s work, Kenny’s experiences in this game, house music, record collecting, etc. Thanks again Gentlemen for your time, humour and generosity. And sorry it took that long to be put online.
Dj Kwak : How did you guys meet each other ? How did it all got started ?
Rasheed Chappell : I actually met Kenny through a producer friend of mine named Malik, I was working with him. Kenny had him under the wing for his house music label. Me and Malik were doing hip hop music and one day, he played the stuff we were working on for Kenny who liked what he heard. We had our first meeting that lead to a « come to the studio, there is something I want to do with you. I’ll have Biz Markie there to do that song of yours about the beat box». It was 2 years ago and we’ve been working ever since.
Dj K : There is a video on youtube showing studio sessions with Kenny and Dj Scratch. You look like a boy in a toy store on it. How does it feel to have legends like Kenny and Scratch working with you ?
RC : Just like you said. A kid in a toy store. It’s amazing. I grew up as a huge fan of Epmd and Dj Scratch. And unknowingly, I was a fan of Kenny Dope even before I met him. The more I find out about him, the more I discover records he produced. Even last night, I was like « Did you produce that record ? », he’d reply « yeah » and I’m like « Oh Dear ! ». I wasn’t all all into the house music but there were certain classics that I knew, when I discovered that he produced those tracks, initially, it was really intimidating. That guy is so established, and i’m just getting started. I was wondering how it could work between us. But, he was very patient, he never treated me like I was a rookie. The people that I met through him like Scratch, Dj Clark Kent, Jazzy Jeff, they all embraced me saying « if Kenny says this kid is good, then, the kid must be really good ». They treated me like I was doing it for years, like I wasn’t a rookie. It’s a blessing, really.
Dj K : You put a mixtape on your Bandcamp page. Is this « mixtape stage » an obligation to get to the « album stage » ?
RC : It was something we wanted to do in order to introduce me to the audience. It’s crazy because most people put out multiple mixtapes prior to releasing an album. We put out only 2 in the course of a year and there wasn’t any new music on those tapes. It was stuff that I did in the past, even before I met Kenny. You know, the classical B sides mixtape. It’s a nice introduction to get to know the name, my name and the lyrics. It’s a bunch of things put together. The album is a real début album with a concept, the mariage between the production, the flows and the lyrics, the whole idea, …
« My time is valuable, I work fast » Kenny Dope
Dj K : Kenny, this kid must be really good if he made you want to come back on the block and produce hip hop again …
Kenny Dope Gonzalez : He certainly is. I was something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Sometimes, you meet people that are really eager to make things but they’re not as good ; sometimes you meet people that are really good but they’re not responsible. They’d get late to the studio. They’d get to the studio without lyrics and stuff like that. Their mind is somewhere else for whatever reason. I take music very seriously. I work very fast, so, if one is not able to keep up or be on time … I travel a lot, I work a lot. My time is very valuable. I wanted to team up with someone that works as fast as I do, as much as I do if not harder and want to get it as much as I do. That special someone is hard to find. I know what I want and I know what I want to do. When we met, I heard what I wanted and I had the vision of what I wanted to do with him. Being in this business for that many years, I knew exactly what this album could sound like.
Dj K : What’s the main idea behind the title of the album « Future before nostalgia » ?
RC : The idea behind the title is to look to the future but at the same time paying hommage to the past. Kenny comes from the golden era, from the true school era. I represent the future but you can’t have one without the other. I wouldn’t be the artist that I am without Rakim, without Big Daddy Kane, without all the cats that came before me. I get a love of love and respect from artists who really laid the foundations of hip hop. A huge supporter of mine is Lord Finesse, for example, a real pioneer, especially on the lyrical side of things. Raekwon The Chef also gave us love and supported the music. When you get such people to support you and say nice things about you, it kind of makes you bridge that gap between the pioneers and the new school. My whole philosophy is, if ever those pioneers that I grew up on were listening to my music, I would want them to say « ok, he payed attention to what we were doing and he tries to carry on with this tradition ». My mind set is « what if Rakim heard this song ? what if this is the only song that Nas ever hears ? What if Kane heard that chorus ? What would they think ?». I really want to be respected by the people I grew up listening to and admiring. Therefore, I wanted to do something that is timeless. Luckily, the people were really responsive to our music. I’m very happy for that.
KDG : The crazy thing is that we ended up with 60 songs, and some were not « first album material ». The album was originaly supposed to be called « Nostalgia ». To me, it’s so dope that, when people get to know Rasheed, we’d put those recordings out. Now going through it and considering the way we work, it’s likely that most of these songs won’t never see the light of day, they’d never come out because we’re on a different wave right now. Basically, the stuff that’s on the album had to be tailor made for the record.
Dj K : Nowadays, there are plenty of featurings on hip hop records. There are none on this record. Were you that angry and hungry ?
RC : I think it was a conscious decision. When Kenny was coming up, there were no collaborations unless with members of one’s crew. I don’t have a crew that is rapping. We actually talked about having features …
KDG : He was like « whaat ? What do you mean ? » ..
RC : But as we started doing the songs, we realised we didn’t need features …
KDG : Because I had the vision in my head of what I wanted, you know ?
RC : … if I execute this song well, it won’t need a feature. We have Dj Scratch on some hooks, we got Mell Starr on a hook and that song sung by Mishal Moore. As far as Mc’s are concerned, if I do my job right as an MC and Kenny does his job right as a producer, we don’t need a feature.
KDG : I didn’t want people to listen to this record, because of this Mc or because of that singer. Like Rasheed said, I come from a time where there were no features on albums. Eric B & Rakim was Eric B & Rakim. Wu Tang was Wu Tang. Gang Starr was Gang Starr plus their crew (Gang Starr Foundation w/ Big Shug, Jeru Da Damaja, etc). I want the people to pay attention to what Rasheed and I are doing as opposed to listening to sidetracks with features. I don’t want them to be listening because « he’s down with my fave crew at the moment ». In the US, if you go to a label, the first question they ask is « who do you have on your album ? ». So I said to myself « I’m going to go against the grain and take it back to the way it used to be ». I could have got beats from many of my friends. But I wanted to present a full album by an artist I trust and entirely produced by me. It is rare these days. All of a sudden, when we come out, you see cats from Rasheed’s scene and generation trying to make that with other producers … But it’s not the same, because to make an album, you have to capture many different moments of sound. A lot of these albums are basically the same record over and over. The vibe, the tempos, the quality of the songs, be it an emotional song, a club tune or a Dj thing … all those elements are in this album. I’ve learned a lot from deejaying these classic and rare records. I do things differently compared to other people.
« Record labels today, they go for the short thing » Kenny Dope
DJ K : You chose to do things differently apparently. You chose to release Rasheed’s album on your own label. Wouldn’t it have been easier to come and knock on some major label’s door and say « Hi, I’m Kenny Dope, I’ve got this cat, release his album and tag my name big time, it’s going to sell » ?
KDG : It wouldn’t have been the same. We could have had an A&R telling us what to do. It would have defeated the whole purpose because that is not what we’re trying to do. To me, record labels today, they go for the short thing. Plus, where I come from, the guys who worked at labels were passionnate about the music and worked hard … Nowadays, nobody works anymore. Today is more like « let’s do that because we saw somebody doing it already, let’s do that kind of album because we saw it sells, it’s a familiar sound, we won’t have to work that hard». With a thing like this album, with hardcore lyrics, hardcore beats, it would have been like « oh, that’s old school, old fashioned ». I could have gone to a label because I have friends there. I talked to some of them, smelled the wind and it would have changed the whole perspective of what the album would have been. We could have had decent money to mess with, yes, but I kind of like the way we’re doing it, grassroots, put out the CD, put out the vynil, put out another video, little by little. We want to make this project grow little by little. Dj Scratch told us he thought we’re right to do it like this. He said « I love the way you do things because it takes it back to the way we were doing it back in the days ».
« I had to learn patience » Rasheed Chappell
DJ K : Kenny, did you have to teach Rasheed patience ? Ra, did you have to learn patience ?
RC : Hell yes ! I wanted to do everything right now. In a way, it was a good test for me to learn to trust Kenny. He told me « if we follow my way, everything is going to be fine ». We had conversations about this. I was impatient like « when are we going to do this and that » and he’d say « it’s coming, we’re not ready yet ». Thinking back to those conversations, I’m very happy I wan’t too impetuous to jump out the window. It wasn’t ready. The album got finished two weeks before its release. There were a couple of mixes that weren’t finished. If Kenny hadn’t done some things on the record, the album wouldn’t have sounded the same. It wouldn’t be what it is. So, yes, it was a test of patience. It was about me growing up and showing Kenny that I trust him. We did it. And the way we did it, we had press and magazines from july to now. Usually, if you release a record, you’d have press the month before and eventually the month after the release. We released the album in July and we’ve been on blogs, press and magazines eversince. It’s now february and we’re touring over Europe !
KDG : It always takes time. Yesterday was very light at the club. I’m not mad at that, I’m not pissed off. I consider that it definetly takes time. We’re back on the grind, we start at the bottom and we’ll work our way to the top…
« I feel like I’m starting all over again » Kenny Dope
DJ K : Kenny, do you feel comfortable to be back on the grind considering your whole career ?
KDG : Yes, I’m ok with that. I can play for 10.000 people, I can play for 50 people. I’ve done it, I still do it. There is a difference between being at a certain level in one genre and going back to the roots in another and start over again. I feel like starting over again …
DJ K : Really ? Because it’s hip hop ?
KDG : Most definetly. And it’s a new generation. It’s about me coming back, reintroducing myself and introducing myself to this new generation.
DJ K : You were already in the ear of this new generation because you’ve been making a lot of classics …
KDG : What I’m saying is that it’s that 20 year cycle. And it’s starting over. Some of my friends, like Dj Premier, told me they have the same feeling because the kids only know so much. When we were young, we’d go to record stores, pack a stack of 30 records and listen to the « new sound ». There are very few record stores nowadays. Today, what do the kids have ? They have Youtube. And Youtube is only as good as the information that is put into it, the information you’re looking for. It’s not like you would meet a specialist telling you what to listen to, giving you advice on what to listen. If you don’t know Kenny Dope or Rasheed Chappell, you won’t type for that information on Youtube.
DJ K : It seems you’re going back on the « funk » side of things …
KDG : I’m not going back to it. It’s there. I’m still putting stuff out. I want to make Kay Dee more versatile, I want it to be a label that is not in one specific genre. I might even close Dopewax, the house label and put house records on KD. I grew up in a time when there weren’t so many titles on styles and genres of music. There were 2 types of music, good music and bad music. And I want to make it about pure music, whatever style it is. Althought I can’t compare myself to those labels, Atlantic or Columbia, for example, was releasing jazz, soul, funk. It was about putting good music out. Not about genres.
I’ve learned the différence between a beatmaker and a Producer (Rasheed Chappell)
DJ K : Rasheed, how does it feel when entering Kenny’s crib, see those tons of records and to see Kenny Dope work ? Did you learn a lot in the process ?
RC : As long as he doesn’t ask me to carry all those records … More seriously, I’m always amazed to see his ability to go from one genre to another, from one area to another. Watch Kenny work is mindblowing. The music is in him, nevermind the genre. It always feels natural. Nothing is a problem for him. As an artist, Watch him do his art was very inspiring and challenging. And as a Dj, he just blows me away. I know what it takes to produce a record now. My favorite part of the recording process is actually the mix. I’d do my part as quick as possible then sit down and watch him put everything together. In fact, I’ve learned the différence between a beatmaker and a Producer.
KDG : The other thing is that the way records are made today just bothers me. There is something about the chemistry of being in the same room. Me and Rasheed worked it the same room creating something. When I did the Raekwon album, he was somewhere, Method Man was in California, he didn’t know what it was all about, we sent him the beat and he did his part. I can understand we’re all grinding and it is possible to do a record this way. But I miss the togetherness … Can’t we all be in the same room ?