Producer Spotlight: DJ Nugz

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As we have reinforced time and time again, the upstate NY scene is a dominating force in the game. There is top notch talent in all phases of the culture, one being Nugz. He is not new to the game, but after a long hiatus is back in a big way with his album Stashbox Chronicles. It plays through nicely, mixing in interludes between tracks featuring Daniel Son, Eto, SmooVth and many more. Nugz touches on his history, the making of the project and news of physicals for Stashbox. 

RD: Tell us about your history, how long have you been making beats?

DN: One day my sister Erin brought home Outkast’s album Aquemini. That kind of changed things for me and exposed me to authentic hip hop. Skateboarding also put me on to a lot of music. I vividly remember hearing Gang Starr for the first time on a skate video, and loving it.  I started DJing around 2004, maybe 16 years old. Both my sisters boyfriends at the time were DJ’s and made beats. I was heavily influenced by them. On one hand I was learning a lot of turntablism from DJ Ease and the other hand, learning more production from my brother in law who goes by LSD CLOTHES. Who to this day makes some of the craziest shit and is ridiculously talented. I would spend hours just watching him work. We would make the craziest tracks together early on with him making the music and me scratching. He’s a genius and that was a huge influence on me as far as making beats. The three of us had a group early on called Professional Bank Robbers. We made some real dope shit. From the jump hip hop was real family oriented to me. Ease has a wild career DJing all over the world and was the Redbull Threestyle U.S. champion a couple years ago. Check dudes credentials, he’s legit one of the top DJs in the world. He did the cuts on “Field Trip”. I started DJing and that naturally led to production. I was part of a production crew called the Goonies. We’d make joints together, go digging, get up every weekend and play our beat tapes for each other. I think that helped us all be sharp. Having a solid crew was important.  Definitely a great time in my life, and all I cared about was making beats. I worked with a lot of local emcees during that time. Rochester had a real vibrant hip hop scene during that time (Big shout out to James Niche from Duckdown. He was definitely responsible for the Rochester scene flourishing the way it did). I got the opportunity to open up for a lot of dope artists. Sean Price, PMD of EPMD, Ill Bill, Vinnie Paz, D12, Slick Rick, etc. I took a hiatus roughly from 2010-2017. Having kids, a family,  and work, I stopped doing music. Hip hop started getting more polished sounding, even in the underground. I lost interest in it until a couple years ago. As soon as I was back into it, I was so influenced I started the project.

RD: How has your setup changed from your beginnings to what you use today?

DN: Set up has always been minimal, and I mean bare bones. Hasn’t changed. I started with and still use Sony Acid Pro. I use Reason a little too. As far as hardware, I have a Rane TTM 57SL mixer, pair of Technic 1200s an MPD, a couple midi keyboards, drum set, guitar, but the majority of my beats are made in Acid with no midi devices, keyboards, snyths, etc. The main focus has always been records. That’s the influence. If I want a synth sound, instead of playing it, I’ll find it on a record and manipulate it to fit the beat. If I want 808s, I’ll take an old 80s hip hop record, and just sample it. I’ve always been sample based and try to keep everything from a record down to the drums. So I definitely see my record collection as part of my set up, if not the center of it.

RD: Your album Stashbox Chronicles just touched down, but I understand it was some time in the making. What obstacles did you face putting the project together?

DN: As I said earlier, I took a hiatus from music for seven years or so, and that included checking for new music too. I just lost interest, nothing was really motivating me as a fan or artist. Right before I stopped doing music, I lost everything. Every beat, every project file, and every sample, drum break I had recorded over the years was gone in a computer crash. When I started getting back into music just as a fan, it got me thinking of the beats I was making years ago. Luckily I used to make beat tapes for my brother in law and sister every week as I stated earlier. We would get up every weekend, listen to our new joints and chill. So after five years or so after I stopped music, I asked my brother in law if he had any of my old beat tapes. Dude kept everything! He handed me multiple CD spindles of just my beats. I ended up recovering over 500 beats and that’s what influenced the album and ended up being the project. No one besides maybe five people have ever heard these beats so they were new to the world. I haven’t touched on this much, but all the beats on Stashbox Chronicles were made literally 7-10 years ago…. That’s how I came up with the title, because they were beats from my stash. I wanted a vibe that fit that title too so it just worked out. In no way am I saying I was ahead of my time, but the beats just fit well for today’s underground sound. I was really strict with it. Even though no one knew these were all beats from years ago, I refused to use any new material. Besides getting the beats for the project, I didn’t have much trouble. I had to be patient on getting back some of the verses, but for the most part everything went real smooth. All the emcees handled their business like professionals. If I got the sense someone was going to be an issue, I just wouldn’t work with them. I had some equipment issues, and literally made the project sitting on the floor, no desk, using headphones. But I made it work. I’ve always used a minimal set up anyways. I was a little worried getting emcees of the caliber I wanted would be difficult since I came into this unknown and with really no credentials. Once I shared the vision and the beats, they were down to be guests. I kind of surprised myself on that. I had doubts about the project at times, and almost scratched it. Luckily I eventually said fuck it, and finally released it. The response has been amazing though. I never thought it would get the attention it’s getting which is really dope.

RD: Talk to us about the selection process for the guests.

DN: I started the project right when I started checking for new music. As I was discovering new emcees, I was getting those emcees on the project. I was going for that grimy, don’t let me catch you in a dark alley vibe. It was as simple as if I thought you were a beast, and your bars fit that vibe, I approached you. I wanted the best of the underground with this album, I wanted to make an impact. I didn’t want to just settle for whoever would do it. There was definitely a vision and having a sense that the emcees I got as guests would continue to elevate A good majority of the guests I got weren’t as known as they are today also. Because I sat on the project for so long, it gave some time for the emcees to be more well known. It wasn’t on purpose but it worked out. If I released the project a year ago, I don’t think it would have had the same effect. When you think of Stashbox, you immediately think of guns, drugs, crime, money, etc. I didn’t have to tell the emcees what direction I was going in, I think it was clear from the jump when I mentioned the projects name.

RD: This is getting some physical releases soon, how rewarding will it be to see your name and hard work on a tangible piece of music?

DN: That’s the goal, I love physical media. I collect movies too. I’m going to be real hyped when the album comes out. Le Daltonien from France did the artwork for the project. He did an amazing job so I can’t wait to see his art get used properly. Trevor Lang is handling the cassettes, and just knowing he wanted to be a part of the project in itself is rewarding. You see who he does business with. He’s the cassette king so I know it’s going to be beautiful. Trevor is a real ass dude. You see how respected he is, and it’s for a good reason. He’s a true hip hop head. Vinyl is being pressed up by Loretta Records. I’m truly hyped on the vinyl. Not only is it getting pressed up, but it’s being done by Loretta, which has been my favorite label for some time now. That shit is a dream come true to me. Having my album on vinyl and released by them, always wanted my music on wax. I was planning on pressing the vinyl myself at a point, but within hours of that decision,  Observe from Loretta Records offered to press it. Instantly down. I respect Observe and Loretta so much. It’s all love with Loretta. They do it for the music and culture first, always. The vinyl process takes time so it won’t be out for a few months, but I can’t wait! Between Trevor Lang doing the cassettes and Loretta pressing the vinyl, I couldn’t be happier. If there are two people or labels I want to work with, it’s them. So everything truly worked out. Throughout the process of making the album, I could always reach out to both of them for advice so it’s fitting they’re handling the physicals.

RD: You have an EP with your friend I.D., who has passed on. What do you want people to know about him and his music?

DN: The EP I released was just my way of paying homage to I.D. and reminding people how ill he was, especially those who didn’t get the chance to hear him when he was still here. It was made of previous material we had released and joints that were never released. Before I took my hiatus I.D. made a project with my production crew The Goonies (Nugz, LSD Clothes, Jon Woodring, & Sam I Am) called Produce Threats probably ten years ago or so. The project is straight grimy. I.D. was definitely that dude and highly respected in Rochester. He supported everyone and would be at every local show even when not performing. Trust me, if he was still around he’d be doing his thing and all the underground fans would be rocking with him. We weren’t that close, but my respect for him is 110%.

RD: There is a strong working relationship with Dart Unit founders Ralphiie Reese and Vinny Vindetta, what brought that about?

DN: I discovered Ralphiie Reese first right when I got back into hip hop, and started sharing beats on Instagram. Instagram is crazy, I feel like it’s responsible for this underground renaissance we’re in, and I’ve found so much good hip hop on there. Ralphiie had just released the Dart Vader LP I believe and I was instantly a big fan. Completely original down to the slang, which is what drew me in, and that goes for their whole crew. Crabskull, Professor, Vinny, Supreme Cerebral, all dope and original. From there, I’m not sure if Vinny reached out to me, or vice versa but he liked one of the beats I posted on Instagram and he did a joint for his project Golden Lord. I was gearing up for Stashbox Chronicles so Vinny and I didn’t start collaborating immediately outside of that. A few months down the road I sent him a batch of beats and he made Drunken Monk Memoirs: Tales of a Funky Monk. Dude knocked it out in a ridiculous time too, I wanna say he recorded the entire project in one or two nights. Naturally we did a sequel to it. Vinny is real independent too. I don’t have to do much work through the creative process. I’m cool with him doing his thing, and taking the wheel because I trust him and his process. I’ve only worked with Ralphiie for Stashbox Chronicles, same with Supreme Cerebral. Ralphiie and Vinny are my guys. They both know if they ever needed beats or what not, my door is always open to them.

RD: What’s the next move after pushing physical copies of Stashbox?

DN: I’ve got a couple ideas. I was thinking about doing a little EP with emcees made from the interludes off of Stashbox Chronicles. But I don’t have anything lined up immediately. I want to start focusing on really making beats again. I spent the last year or so working on the album, and connecting with heads that I didn’t make much beats wise. Most of the time was spent laying tracks down from the emcees for the project, but I feel like I’m in that space again where I’m really ready to start making beats again. I’d like to do a new project with just one emcee soon too.

RD: What’s your ultimate goal as a music producer?

DN: I simply want to make good hip hop music and have it be heard, hear my own joints on vinyl. Work with the emcees I respect and enjoy most. I can honestly say I do it for the love of making beats and records. I was never financially motivated. This album has met a lot of personal goals. It’s coming out on vinyl and cassette. I’ve been getting regular play on Shade45 on SiriusXM, radio stations in Europe, all the dope pod casts. That’s really all I ever wanted.

RD: Shouts for the good readers?

DN: Shout out to my wife and kids. All the incredible emcees that were involved with the project for making it happen. Le Daltonien and Trevor Lang for their highly skilled art and input. Shout out to LSD Clothes, DJ Ease, Sam I Am, Jon Woodring, Biscuit Tooth, my sister Erin. Gotta shout out my boy eNox. Dude has believed in the project from the jump and has shown nothing but love and support. The legendary Chris G, the godfather of Rochester hip hop. All the emcees and producers in Rochester. Dart Unit. Vinny, Ralphiie, Crab Skull, Supreme Cerebral. Soul Assassins on Shade45 with DJ Julian Ramirez & Ernie Medina. Those guys have been playing joints all month long. Huge shout out to Respect Due. You guys are truly the culture. Everything and everyone you guys cover is ill. I read all the articles you guys write. All the other pod casts and radio shows, and blogs. Fade Away Barber for his continued support, DJ Schame, Kxng Koopa, Cove and Rebel Radio, all the Buffalo heads. Cocareef, Southern Vangard, Insominiac Magazine. Observe from Loretta Records. Jordan Commandeur. And of course mostly the fans! So many people have been supporting and sharing the project. I can’t wait until the physical copies drop and get them in their hands! I know I shouted out so many heads and still missed some, but want everyone to know I truly appreciate the love and support, and their contributions to the culture!

 

Follow Nugz on IG @DJNugz

Bandcamp https://djnugz.bandcamp.com

Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/the-real-dj-nugz

Keep tabs on Loretta Records page for Vinyl and https://iamtrevorlang.bandcamp.com for cassettes

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