RD: You’re by far our most local guest repping Camden County, New Jersey just like us. Did you grow up in the area?
K: I did, right in Voorhees.
RD: How did growing up in the area shape your musical tastes/creative output?
K: Can’t honestly say the area influenced my taste or creative output. You go digging around there and you get Barbara Streisand and Christmas cover records. Of course I had friends who introduced me to different styles of music, but really I just buried my head in the sand and looked for stuff I liked.
RD: Do you record at home, or in a studio?
K: At home, for a time I interned at Gradwell House Recording and would have homies come through there.
RD: You have a blend of vocal projects as well as beat tapes available on your Bandcamp. Take us into recording Open Casket and Lost In Translation.
K: The best thing about the internet is being able to make music with people you wouldn’t usually be able to. For both those joints I sent everyone on them a pack of beats that was in the general direction I was going for with for the tape. Except for the joints with Barry Marrow, we go back so he’ll come through and we’ll get a nice session going.
RD: Voodoo Kit is a joint venture with Sleep Sinatra, tell us about your relationship with Sleep and how that project came about.
K: Sleep is a real good, genuine dude. Voodoo Kit came together because of the homie Sekwence actually. He introduced us and everything just flowed naturally between me Sleep. Glad we got to make that, one of my favorites to date.
RD: You also fully produced Budget Cuts with Sekwence, do you take a different approach when doing these joint projects? What is the workflow difference between this and your own projects?
K: I’ll send the artists joints based off what I think they’ll like but also still has my style on it. Sometimes artists send me songs to cut up that resonate with them. I feel like that can bring out more emotion cause the writer feels a connection to the song in the first place. With my personal tapes, I look at them as more of a show case of the styles I can bring to the table while also making the projects sound cohesive. A good way to put it looking at it like a movie, is the “artist x producer” formula I play more the composer role and the rapper plays the writers role. Where tapes like Open Casket, I’m the co-writer, director, acting coach.
RD: If you could add any piece of gear to your setup, what would it be?
K: That’s a good question, I just got the MPC Live 2, but if I needed something else I’d go with the Apollo Twin.
RD: What aspect of beatmaking do you feel is your strong suit?
K: Chopping samples, anything and everything can be sampled and I’ll die on that hill.
RD: What can listeners look for in 2021?
K:Kill Barry 3 with Barry Marrow, produced, mixed & mastered by me, just dropped. Sekwence and I have Budget Cuts 3 almost finished with some crazy features. I might also drop a mini EP of some old joints me and Lord Jah-Monte have, and of course another Souless project in the works.
RD: You’ve been given an unlimited budget for your next project, what are the first 5 calls you make?
K: First off , half the budget is going to sample clearance, then John Williams to replay some samples. Kareem Riggins for some drums. Jay Electronica for some verses. Resurrect Stanley Kubrick from the dead to direct a short film, and I’m calling the weed man.
Editors Note: This is the one standard question we ask everyone, strong contender for best reply.
RD: Let’s talk about Level 13 the person first. Tell us a bit about yourself.
L: I’m a South Philly based producer, a new(ish) dad, my daughter Charlie is almost two.
RD: Do you set aside time to create, or get to work when inspiration hits?
L: For sure, I used to be more of a night owl and fell into the trap of only making beats when inspiration strikes. But the last four or five years or so I really begun to regiment my creative time. Especially after reading Steve Pressfield’s The War of Art. I began to treat it more of a job. A job I enjoy, but still a job. So, lately I’ve been keeping my clock-in and clock-out times in the morning and early/mid afternoon.
RD: Your list of placements is nothing short of incredible, in an era where placements are few and far between you seem to excel at shopping your work. Is it raw persistence? Building connections? What advice could you give to other producers like yourself?
L: Thank you, shit’s work. A lot of it’s persistence. Of course building relationships. Advice I would even chase placements. Some of my biggest advice is to learn to sell/lease beats online.
RD: Do you have a personal favorite piece of work?
L:From myself? Probably the joints I did with Bodega Bamz, or the joint I did for Billy Danze “What It Was”
RD: Once you get the green light for, lets say Method Man’s Meth Lab 2, what occurs after that? Are you in constant contact with reps until the project drops?
L: Not at all, even with Meth Lab I, I didn’t hear the finished track until it was done.
RD: When constructing a beat, what comes first?
L: It depends, always starts with the melody for me. Half the time I sample records, other half someone is sending me loops.
RD: Growing up in Philly, who were some of your biggest local influences?
L: Rap wise? Beans of course, Black Thought, Paz & Stoupe, Reef.
RD: Best place to see a hip hop show in the city?
L: Voltage used to be one of my favorites. The Rona messed things up. Has me feeling bad for not getting out to enough events pre- pandemic.
RD: Aside from your placements, you have developed a few projects with up and coming rappers as well. Is that something you plan to do more of? If so, who are you building with?
L: Definitely, I have something cooking up with my homie Vas from Philly. Also dropped Smoke Crudo with Bub Styles back in 2019. I definitely want to do more 50/50s though.
RD: If you could get any 5 vocal talents on a Level 13 album, who are you contacting?
L: Man, probably Thought, Beans, Dark Lo, Paz and RJ Payne.
We first caught up with Hobgoblin in 2018, when he teamed up with Jamil Honesty to make Martyr Music. Since then he has had numerous placements such as with Da Cloth’s M.A.V. for the Angelz & Demonz series. His new album The Awakening is loaded with talented mc’s, and is the flagship release for his Deathface Records imprint.
RD: Since our last interview you have landed dozens of placements and began a series of amazing projects with M.A.V. Are you pleased with your trajectory?
H: Of course! Its been very organic though, I’m having fun creating, getting in my zone musically, and just trying to make the dopest music. Luckily the artists and supporters like what they are hearing, so the momentum is naturally opening up new opportunities.
RD: The first thing that stands out on your productions are drums with a lot of punch in them. Is that the foundation/starting point for all of your beats?
H: It’s definitely important that the drums have a certain presence, that’s the foundation of the style of hip hop I grew up on. Finding a mix on my drums that ‘worked’ was the single biggest reason for my beats going to the next level. I pretty much use the same plugins on all of my drums now. I don’t always start with the drums though. Sometimes the sample I use/play will mean I swap out the drums or pattern as I go, again the process has to be intuitive and organic, that’s when the magic happens!
RD: The Awakening is your debut producer album, take us through the selection process of the guests and how long this took to create.
H: Making this album was both scary and exhilarating! With regards to selecting MC’s, I definitely had an idea of who I wanted and how I would arrange them before I sent out the beats, but being in complete control myself meant I could experiment and play with these arrangements too. The finished product took shape quite organically and is a mixture of measured intent and planning, my own subconscious ideals of what hip hop is and some happy accidents! It took fucking ages though.. There are over 20 MC’s on the project, all of who are working on their own projects. So as a curator, you have to be persuasive but not a dick about it. You have to know when to stop harassing someone who’s just not going to get it done. The album was pretty much done in February 2020, but Covid hit so we decided to hold off.
The Awakening track-by-track breakdown
1. The Awakening intro’ with Lord Juco literally came together 3 days before I sent the project off for mixing and mastering. Juco had agreed to be on the project, but had a serious car accident, so obviously I left that where it was. Fast forward a year, and he had fully recovered and was recording again so I hit him up one last time to just let him know that there was room for him on the project if he still wanted to jump on, but that the record needed to go off for mastering. Luckily he got it back in time, and it was (ironically as its the last track to get made) the perfect intro track to set the album off.
2 ‘Fifteen Twenty‘ feat J Scienide, Ace Cannons and DJ TMB. This definitely has a Wu feel to it! A lot of tracks on this album are heavy nods towards my production idols and this one is a huge nod to the RZA. The features on this absolutely killed this too! Shout to J Scienide for being the first mc to get me a verse back for this project.
3. ‘Mogilevich‘ feat GeneralBackPain and Chuck n Lock. I love this track because its fully sample free. I played everything on here by hand. This joint definitely has a more DJ Shadow, laid back but still gully vibe to it.
4. ‘Dump on em‘ feat Mav, Rec Ali and SmooVth. This one is my ode to that 90s era gully New York Street rap shit! All three features on this track are masters of their craft and this joint is def one of my personal favourites on the project.
5. ‘Horsemen of Apocalypse’ feat All Hail Y.T, Squeegie-o, PGenz and Nino Graye. I felt like the RZA on this shit because nearly all the mc’s initially recorded their verses over a different beat, and I got to really experiment with how I ordered and placed them. This joint was really fun to make, and I layered lots of really small sections of samples to construct this beat.
6. ‘State Your Business‘ feat Jamil Honesty. Jamil is like family at this point, so this was just effortless and easy. I wanted to experiment with a more emotional, melodic melody with this one as well as making the track with a higher bpm than the listeners might be used to me working in, I’m just really happy about how this one turned out!
7. ‘Deathwish‘ feat Supreme Cerebral and Madhattan. Firstly, massive shout to Supreme for getting Madhattan on this track because I didn’t know he was going to do that. This track is just gully as fuck, and I love it. I played this sample melody myself too!
8. ‘Warriors 3′ was initially going to be my homage to ‘Protect Ya Neck’ with 7 emcees. However, Ace Cannons, Jamil Honesty who sent me back a whole song, and Josiah the Gift all felt the beat so much that they wrote choruses too! In the end it made sense to split the track into 3 separate tracks which later became ‘State your Business’ and ‘Fifteen Thirty’.
9. ‘Survival’ feat Cousin Feo and Fastlife. Again, huge shout to Feo for surprising me with the Fastlife feature. Feo and I have a lot in common including a mutual love of soccer, and he’s such a genuinely great guy. I couldn’t decide which beat to use for the final version of the track, which is why the beat switches half way through.
10. ‘Hunger‘ feat Whatamess. I just love the fact this guy has his own unique flow and cadence. How an MC sounds for me is almost as important as whether they can spit or not, and this joint closes out the project so well in my opinion!
RD: Is there anything you can divulge about the rest of 2021?
H:Angelz and Demonz 3 drops very soon and it’s my favourite of the 3 so far. I can’t wait for the supporters to hear this one! Jamil and I are also feeling our way through Martyr Musik 3. I have a lot of other shit in the works, album & EP collaborations, placements too many to mention, which is great!
RD: There seems to be a brotherhood amongst some veteran producers like Flu and Farma, how did all that come about?
H: Through social media generally, we have always been very supportive of each others music. Farma hit me a couple of years ago to produce a collaborative project, and that grew into a producer collective called The Seven. Its basically a collective of seven producers from all across the world, the plan is to drop a ‘Seven’ project this year, so keep an eye out!
RD: Do you have any Shout outs?
H: The Awakening is out now! The album is available from Deathface Records. Shoutouts to all the MCs who blessed the project. Shouts to Tokebi who killed the artwork! Shout Chemo for the incredible mix and master. Shout to my wife for believing in me and supporting my passion!
Follow the man on IG @hobgoblin80 and Twitter @hobgoblinbeats
RD: Talk to us about your musical history. What did you listen to growing up? How has this shaped your production?
CT: I currently live in Boston, but grew up in the Worcester and central Massachusetts area, and was exposed to a lot of music from my family, many of whom are musicians and artists, several pianists. My parents played all sorts of 70’s and 80’s music, but my grandparents played more classical based music, opera, jazz, solo piano. As a kid I always loved to perform for my family at holidays, singing while my gramps played piano etc. One grandfather played trombone in a jazz band, the other a self-taught pianist who can play almost anything by ear. My grandmother was a fire cook as well, and I find myself doing what she did at the stove, and at the boards. My approach to cooking and painting translates perfectly to how I produce music.
RD:Like ourselves here at Respect Due you’re of Italian heritage. Does that come into play with your music? Whether it be samples or just a certain spirit.
CT: The specific aura my music encapsulates is significantly influenced by my family and environment during developmental years as a youth. My grandmother, who is of Sicilian descent, plays a major role in the influence of my stylistic palette and approach in more than just music (cooking, fashion, interior design, gardening/landscaping, work ethic, character, principle). However, my foundation of particular taste in music has always been based on the ominous, dark, dramatic sound you hear in a lot of Italian music. I love all sorts of music/samples, but have always been attracted to classical based samples to make beats, which is a unique facet of my production, differentiating me from masses in the hip-hop culture. Call it a predisposition.
RD: You’re clearly a jazz head, what do you look for when listening to jazz? what separates the greats from the average in your ears?
CT: My Grandfather was in a jazz band, he played the trombone. I was exposed to upbeat jazz from him when I was younger, but didn’t learn about the cool, slow (dramatic) style of jazz until I got to college. At Northeastern I attended a class “John Coltrane & Black America’s Quest for Freedom”, which totally inspired me. I learned the history/ roots of the music, and also delved into the catalogues of artists such as Coltrane himself, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and many others related to the “cool jazz” movement. When listening to jazz I am looking for that same feeling as when I dig other genres, that special phrase of emotion that sounds hard yet beautiful at the same time, that part that makes you have that face like Robert Deniro just stepped in dog shit. The Silvio Dante stank face haha. In my opinion, what separates the greats from the mediocre is the artists’ ability to speak through their instrument and convey a message or dialogue with no use of verbal language. If you listen to “Blue in Green” (which I consider the greatest jazz tune of all time), you can hear a story of pain and perseverance through the instrumentation of Miles, John, and Bill. Raw emotion that is received and understood without the directive limitation of words.
RD:You rhyme as well as produce, what came first? Does the track get laid down first, or do you write then try to build around that?
CT: I was an artist first around age 7 then a beginning producer at around 13. I was always talented in art classes with painting, and in English class with writing and poetry, so those skills converged into becoming a lyricist. What separates me from “rappers” is that I paint a literal picture. I have very strong synesthesia (the connection of senses) and naturally understand sounds as scenes, colors and flavors etc. This plays a major role in my art. As far as recording, for me, the instrumental always sets the foundation because it dictates the sonic environment and emotion from which the lyrics grow. The beat is the pot, and the lyrics are the plant. Much of my formal training in college helps sharpen the refinement/mastering process, but my natural ear and gut-instinct are the strongest deciding factors in creating ART. Quality over quantity.
RD:The Green In Blue album dips even deeply into slow, melodic jazz vibes. Talk to me about crafting this album. It strikes me as quite personal.
CT:Green in Blue was inspired by points mentioned in my previous paragraph about jazz, the title is a play off of Blue in Green, the classic album from the Miles Davis quintet. I literally flipped it in a couple ways. It is definitely personal, as you can see the sole feature was DJ Bobby Bangers, fully written, produced, recorded and mastered by myself at my studio “The Deli”. I’m going to have to let the music speak for itself on this one, the project is riddled with gems from the depths. The lead video was shot at ‘Diamond Beach’ in Iceland, while on a vacation with my wife.
RD:Mafiusu is here. Take us behind the meaning behind the name and what went into this.
CT: The highly anticipated project I am releasing 1/17/21 is titled MAFIUSU Part 1, it is something I have been slow cooking for a long time and I would consider my “magnum opus”. The translation of MAFIUSU is from the Sicilian word, which in its origin means boldness or bravado, and signifies “fearless, enterprising, and proud”. It also relates to the style of one who carries themselves with resilient confidence and sharp demeanor. A “Mafiusu” as a noun is not just a “gangster” as most would assume, but a man who proudly takes care of his family and his village, and will go to any extent necessary to do so; someone who is passionate, considerate and loyal, but never to be crossed or disrespected. Based on this principle definition, along with my heritage and bloodline, I embody the term “MAFIUSU”. There is a certain set of moral ethics and code of honor that my family raised me with, and is a permanent part of my persona. The project is a testament to that. When immigration from Europe took place in the early 1900’s (when my ancestors came here by boat and Sicilians / Italians immigrants amongst others were considered non-white) the word “mafiusu” transformed to “mafioso”, which is a stereotypical derogatory term that described someone of Italian heritage who was assumed to be a member of organized crime.
In the album content, I portray my “Mafiusu” mentality and principalities while simultaneously juxtaposing and citing sources of the Americanized Mafia culture with quotes from classic films like ‘The Godfather’, ‘Casino’ and series ‘The Sopranos’ etc.
This project is very personal to me, and my goal was to create a timeless piece of art that is meaningful, unique and authentic. I put a great amount of care into to every aspect of the project, from sample selections, to lyrical message, to features, and transitions between tracks. It was carved and cured over a time period of about 3 years, and I consider it as a fine marble sculpture of the new Renaissance era. A sonic equivalent to an ornate oil painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, hence why I call it my “magnum opus” to date. Also, a disclosure to sharks and copy cats out there, cease and desist letters will not be issued, sit-downs will be.
Guest appearance features include my Tragic Allies family Estee Nack, Codenine, Paranom and Al Divino (all from Mass), as well as Sonnyjim from the UK & Eto from Rochester NY. The project is entirely self produced. There will be a MAFIUSU part 2 following…
RD: One of the singles is the bone-chilling hip-hopera song Take A Breath feat. Estee and June. What’s the story behind that record?
CT:Take A Breath was just some fly shit that resulted in an oceanic burial. Started with this fire jazz fusion record sample, and I ended up using an ill verse I had written for a different much less fitting beat. I originally had two verses recorded, but kept hearing Estee Nack and Junelyfe in my head on the song, so I cut my second verse and added them. That’s family, so I sent it to get laced up and bada bing “I’ll tie your wrists and ankles up and we can go for a swim, so take a breath”. Ended up being relative to the “Mafiusu” message, and became a promo for it. I created the cover art for the single as well. Maybe if someone tries to jock ride my wave, they can be the sinking star in the music video.
RD: You have teased some opera samples on your IG live vids, is that something we can expect soon? Sounding heavy.
CT: As far as opera, blasting Luciano Pavarotti full volume is mandatory when I’m at the stove cheffing the family recipe sauce, extra garlic. Complimenti di mia nonna. You can catch me doing my thing on the final track of the MAFIUSU part 1 record “Hold the Strings” where I sing an operatic aria for the outro. I might start a new genre where I sing opera over dramatic beats, we’ll see.
RD:Let’s talk about the success of Gardens, your sixth release. The vinyl and tapes are currently sold out, including your own Bandcamp and a separate Fat Beats drop. Why do you think this resonated so strongly?
DAC: I don’t know. I didn’t expect that because it’s so many beats and a lot of them are 5+ years old and/or were intended to be used as interludes. 27 songs is probably overwhelming for people at this juncture but I did it anyways because fuck it. It sounded right to me at the time.
RD: In terms of raw number of tracks, Gardens is your longest release. Do you go into the recording process looking for a certain amount, or is more of a feel to know when to start sequencing/moving onto the next step?
DAC: It’s mostly just a feel for what seems true to the album and trying to see the whole picture. Might add one beat or seven to a project that isn’t shaped the way I envisioned. So there is a gray area when it comes to the reason for the amount of music that ends up on a release. All about how it sounds as a whole, however that comes about.
RD:When constructing a song, do you follow a certain path to the final version? I know some guys strictly start with drums, others may build around the melody.
DAC: Nah I try to avoid that or really any structure at all. I start with something I hear in a sample and let that take itself wherever. Sometimes I make multiple versions of a beat using the same sample and blend them together with something else to tie it up. Other times I just hear a loop and want to let it run for a minute. It’s just whatever feels right.
RD: Mise En Place with YUNGMORPHEUS is a rare vocal collaboration for you, how did that come about?
DAC: We listen to each other’s music so we talked about working together. I sent him a couple things and we decided to do an EP real quick. Bong bong.
RD: 2020 has been very active for you, tallying three releases. Do you see that becoming the norm?
DAC: I’m not sure what’s gonna happen. I know I’m always working. There’s never gonna be a norm but I’d like to release as many albums as I can. It takes me a long time to finish things, so I get caught up in all that and hold onto projects that are probably ready to be let go of.
RD: Let’s go back to 2011, the year of your first release, what advice would you give yourself?
DAC: Eat some vegetables
RD: If you could add any one piece of gear to your setup, what would it be?
DAC: Good monitors. I use some raggedy headphones that are falling apart so my mixes never sound the way I want them to sound. I spend a lot of time trying to get them as close as I can.
RD: You’ve been given an unlimited budget to make an album with star-studded vocal features, who are the first five calls?
DAC: At this point I don’t know. Too many artists I like to pick 5.
DAC: My grandma Judy (RIP) and too many people to name who’ve kept me in check or tried to through some hard times. The artists who’ve made songs that I’ve sampled, for inspiring me to do it. Also, everyone who supports- thank y’all.
RD: Jersey has a rich history in hip hop, but sometimes we get overlooked. Who were some local favorites of yours growing up?
RW: Albee Al was someone everyone listened to growing up around here. Of course Ms. Lauryn Hill, I think the Mystery of Iniquity verse might be the greatest verse of all time.
RD: One thing that stands out among your earlier work is a placement on The Underachiever’s Renaissance album. How did that come about?
RW: AK is a cool dude. Giani was talking to YL about how AK was working on his solo tape, Blessings in the Grey 2, so I told him I had beats for him, even though I probably didn’t at the time. I always feel I can make something for anyone, with any style. Giani got us in the studio together and we made some songs on the spot we’ve been cool since then. AK is one of the most talented MCs I’ve worked with to this day.
RD:You have a long-standing working relationship with YL, and a good amount of work together. From your perspective, what makes it work so well?
RW: Y is a great collaborator. At this point we’ve done so many songs I already know what he’s gonna like when I’m playing him beats. We abide by similar codes. Most importantly there’s a certain type of respect between us, and when you have that it makes communicating much simpler.
RD:Juices features a few vocal guests alongside a bed of instrumentals, including Pink Siifu and Wiardon. Were the guests able to select from a pack, or did you have those specific beats in mind for them?
RW: Some of the songs from Juices are from sessions with people where we made a lot of songs in-person and they let me keep some. With Siifu and Wiardon, every time we get up it seems like it’s at least 5 songs getting made. I love every single person that’s on Juices, by the way.
RD: Do you actively shop your work, or collab organically?
RW: I only push my music to artists I really want to work with, like I just hit Navy Blue up and sent him a bunch of beats, hopefully he uses some. I have a decent amount of beats out now so the music shops itself at this point, and I let people hit me up. I’m always open to working with new people.
RD: What can listeners look for this year?
RW: Gandhi Loves Children with Fatboi Sharif. It’s a different sound than what people are used to hearing from me but I think it’s a sound that’s very true to who I am as a human, and to where I was mentally while making it. I think my production discography for 2020 will reflect the year 2020 and everything that’s happened better than any other producer out. Also working on the Roper album, it’s a straight up rap album, not a beat tape. A couple other projects I can’t even comment on right now too. We’re not rushing anything though.
RD: In your opinion, who is the next great rapper out of NJ?
RW: Pootie and Fatboi Sharif for sure, but there’s a lot of great artists coming up in Jersey.
RD:If you could add any piece of gear to your setup, what would it be?
RW: I’d get that robot with a soul from iRobot, he can engineer the sessions too. That or I’d want some type of synth like a Moog Voyager.
RD: A lot of your work gives a relaxing, soothing feeling, do you feel that while making it? Do you need to be in a certain mindset to create?
RW: I always make music based off how I feel in the moment. I wasn’t gonna make dance songs after Kobe just died, I made some sad ass music cause that’s how I felt. The relaxing sounding stuff just tends to be the stuff that gets released a lot of the times, for whatever reason. GLC shows the whole other side though.
RD: Do you have any Shouts?
RW: Shout out to Boog, GianiNYC, Seicho Blossom, Derek Balarezo, Ben Hixon, BSTFRND, Driveby and let us also take a moment to appreciate Whoopi Goldberg.
Since Fatboi Sharif and Roper’s collaborative album Gandhi Loves Children just dropped, we thought we would tap in with Sharif as well.
Fatboi Sharif Interview:
RD: For anyone unfamiliar with your work what could you share about yourself ?
FS: Peace world, I go by Fatboi Sharif, lyricist, visionary and lover of chinese food. Of all things creative, my love of the written word has always pushed me since a kid. In 2nd grade I began doing poetry, and by 4th I had won numerous competitions. With time it transitioned over to writing rhymes. Luckily I’ve always took what I felt was the power of word placement and always layered meanings to pull the observer in many directions. I worked on FM radio for some years with Strangers With Hip Hop at Kean University on 90.3 in Union, NJ. Which gave me skills that I’ll forever use. When it comes to being a musician such as structure of content and setting a tone of conscious transferred thought to keep the listener involved, SOME OF THE BEST TIMES OF MY LIFE.
RD:Walk us through the making of GLC.
FS: The making of Gandhi Loves Children was a experience unlike any other I’ve had recording. It was a 3+ year journey that myself and Roper both knew we had a lot riding on. We went into making the best possible product we could. It was also a project we started two times before. We would come back to the drawing board to push boundaries until we finally got it where we knew we had something that was truly special. The creation was ill because there was lots of reflection. We had conversations about happenings in the world and the overall state of craziness that we all surviving in day-to-day. We call it a timepiece project of the last few years of chaos, undertones from greedy political power structure, as well as this generations fear of filth as I call it. The majority of everything was created with us together from going to record store, going thru samples, and building on ideas. Personally my favorite part of the process was taking real life situations with a sick twist that in our minds make complete sense.
RD: There are a number of Jersey acts making waves right now, how strong do you feel the scene is in our state?
FS: Right now the state of the scene in NJ is super strong and in a wonderful place. There’s lots of creativity running rapid right now from musicians, clothing brands and all different areas of the arts. We’ve been an area where we started a lot of different things, but I feel at the moment we have a huge spotlight shinning that will continue to bring opportunities.
RD: Your style is unorthodox and unique, how did you get to this point stylistically?
FS: Honestly my brain has always been altered. Style wise I always wanted to push boundaries for the listener. I never wanted to be the artist that you hear his music and all the questions are answered, what fun is that? To me a true artists work is never fully understood by the masses as a whole. It should always be a level of mystery that intrigues conversations and different perspectives. My favorite sort of entertainment has always been off kilter content that you will either love or hate, but in hindsight will be celebrated for it’s individuality. That’s how I’ve always approached my style of making music. I want you to hear me and instantly get drawn in for more. Much love to inspirations Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Stephen King, William Cooper, Prince Paul.
RD: Thoughts on Roper as a musical talent and collaborator.
FS: Roper to me is my favorite and one of the greatest producers of this generation. His style and work ethnic is top notch. Just watching him work in the studio, from records he chooses to samples and the way he does it with such a attention to detail is always captivating to see. Whenever we collab we shock each other with the direction we go. It’s always fun experience pushing the limit of what we’ve done before. We both know that when it’s time for us to bring a whole new perspective to what each other has created there’s no second guessing. We have complete confidence that when the final picture is revealed it will make all the dots connect.
RD: Shouts, message to the supporters?
FS: Just wanna end it off by saying much love to Respect Due for always supporting us and showing that love, keep being amazing. Shout out everybody who’s been showing love to GLC thus far, the feedback, reviews and all the love we’ve been getting has been nothing short of amazing. We knew we had something special in all aspects of it and we just blessed that it’s connecting, couldn’t ask for anything more. Stay tuned for everything coming down the pipeline as well from me and Roper Williams. I’ll tell you this, THE NEW PROJECT WE’RE COOKING UP RIGHT NOW IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE, SHOUT OUT MY FAMILY BOOG, POOTIE AND DRIVE BY. PEACE LOVE AND GENERAL TSO’S CHICKEN.
ManZu – Me, DBTZ and my bro Divine The Architect, I’m ManZu, he is ManZu from day one.
RD – Is there a certain formula when making beats as a crew? Does one member do one aspect of a beat, or can it vary song-to-song?
ManZu – Now that I live far from Italy normally everyone works on their own instrumental. When we’re in the studio we work together, one will work on the sample, one on the drums, and one on the bass. Again, normally that doesn’t happen, I do my thing and he does his thing.
RD – You introduced yourselves to the American market with ‘Jamal Gasol is the Future’, what can you share about how the project was released?
ManZu – We received much warm feedback from all the heads who listened to it, and we were happy to work with Jamal. We like to work 360 degrees, where it is possible and take care of everything. We discuss then compare with each other working together. The project has to be built together as a team, performer and producer. He was very helpful and we built a dope visionary project, projecting Jamal into the future.
RD – There are two new EP’s out, Universal Tongues with M-Doc Diego and Golden Bars with YNX716. They’re new names to the scene, tell us what listeners can expect from them as emcees and what to expect sonically from each project?
ManZu – They are two different projects, just as the two artists are different from each other.
YNX716 with his unique calm behavior style and intense delivery.
Doc Diego is rough with a sharp gravelly voice and heavy bars, you have to expect exactly this, the two projects reflect very much the style of each artist.
RD– DBTZ you started out as a rapper before switching over to the production side of things. What made you make that change?
ManZu – My love for the culture and for all the disciplines started many years ago, in the 90s.
I started as an MC because I love “RAP” as part of HipHop music and to make rap music, means to express this passion.
I always loved productions. It was a constant reminder, when I did rap I went crazy when I felt the instrumental that overstimulated me. Making me travel within my mind and igniting my desire to create. I’ve always admired the figure of the producer, with time and maturity. I wanted to comply with that calling and I started to produce. I completely fell in love with the production, and can say I should’ve listened to that call first. I love making music now it’s my dimension, I would’nt do anything else, I love the creative part, it’s art.
RD – What piece of gear would you love to add to your setup?
ManZu – Honestly, I’m happy with my studio. With time I’ve equipped it very well and now it has everything I need. Let’s see in the future, I just need to do more projects and make dope music.
RD– Given your diverse backgrounds, will you be working with any international emcees?
ManZu – Music must have no barriers, Art must have no barriers. I’m working mainly with American artists, but I am also working on a project with one of the most famous rappers in Spain. In collaboration with my Spanish partner with whom I share the LAB with where I live and work from now.
RD – Where do you see ManZu Beats in the next few years?
ManZu – I didn’t think about it, I live the present. I hope to have produced many projects and have created a lot of good music. For the culture, to continue to pass on the love for the HIP HOP culture.
RD –If you could have any 5 guests on a producer project, who would you pick?
ManZu – I admire all the artists I’ve worked with. Out there is full of big lyrical champions more or less known, so I’ll notably mention some high-sounding names of today.
This Producer Spotlight interview highlights Timepiece’s latest project with ProZay. Timepiece breaks down the album track by track. Be sure to click on the link to the much anticipated project Alley Muzik.
RD: Give us a little history on yourself and your background in making music.
T: I came up in a house full of music. I latched onto hip hop in the mid 80’s and never looked back. I always wanted to be involved in the music side of it, but never knew how it was done until I saw music videos with DJ’s scratching. I copped my first shitty DJ set up from Radio Shack at a young age. I soon started to figure out what sampling was via my dad’s record collection and started putting beats together using Windows 3.1 Wav Editor. I was hungry.
RD:It’s always fascinating to hear about how fans from far locales got into hip hop. What were some titles that got you hooked as a fan, and secondly which ones made you want to venture into beat-making?
T: I found out about the Def Jam era stuff from my older brother’s friend giving me a tape that had Run DMC on one side, and the Beasties on the other. I think De La’s 3 Feet High & Rising was the one that caught my imagination as far as sampling goes, and then Black Sheep’s debut album. These albums taught me about layering multiple samples which I still do a lot to this day. It’s a lost art.
RD: Talk about the evolution of your setup. Many guys master a certain piece and/or program and stick with it, others venture out. What did you start on, and what are you currently into?
T: When I started it was the waveform editor that came with Windows 3.1 Then when I figured out what a sequencer was I started using ‘Fast Tracker’ which was a DOS based sequencer that you could load samples into. In 97′ Fruity Loops came out, and I used that for a couple of years until I copped my first piece of hardware which was the Akai MPC2000. I used that forever until I transitioned to Logic and then in about 2010 I switched to Ableton. I’ve owned a bunch of other gear along the way like the ASR and the SP’s but I always find software the fastest.
RD: What led to you and Pro linking up for Alley Muzik?
T: When I initially heard Pro Zay rhyme it was on the NCL-TM track titled Four Horsemen. I didn’t completely know what to think at first, but I really liked the fact that someone had the balls to rhyme like that. It has a wild energy to it. I approached him to do one track and it turned out cool so we decided to do more. I really like the way he does his background vocals too with the opposing style. Then there are tracks where he rhymes in a completely different tone all together.
01 – CHECKLIST
This is the first piece that Zay and I did together to see if it’d work out. Be both agreed we worked well together and decided this would make a good intro because it’s got some energy.
02 – PEDIGREE ft. Lord Juco
My love of old TV and movies comes through on this one because that is where it’s all sampled from. I’d been wanting to work with Juco for a long while so I was real happy when he agreed to jump on board.
03 – COCAINE CORRAL
I’d had this beat for a while but I am glad Zay made it work the way he did. I’d heard him rap on swing rhythm before so I knew he could do it. I like the story in this one. The horns make it feel like an old spaghetti western movie or something so I took the liberty of taking it in that direction.
04 – 25
This was another beat from the vault that Zay made work. He understood the concept that the opening sample sets from the get go so the theme wrote itself.
05 – KNOWLEDGE ft. Tony Tone
I had a different beat originally for this track and I am glad I came up with another one because this one smokes the old one and it’s more effective at carrying the narrative. I wasn’t too familiar with Tone’s work before but he’s one of Zay’s homies and he’s nice.
06 – CONNECT ft. Killy Shoot
I like working with Killy because we see eye to eye on a lot of things when it comes to music and also other popular culture. I had a strong feeling that his style would compliment Zay’s and I think I was right. Adding all the telephone stuff in here was a last minute thing but I am glad I think it ties it all together nicely.
07 – HOMETEAM/NOSEBLEED
I love two part songs and have never tried doing one before so I was glad when Zay had the vision to put these two beats together. It was a nightmare to mix but it turned out to be hard.
8 – SLEEPING GAS ft. Scvtterbrvin
I knew if Scvtterbrvin was going to feature on here I would want to have some psychedelic sounding stuff to match his lyrics. Again, another team up that came together as I have worked with Scvtterbrvin before and I know we quickly and effectively he works so it was a no brainer.
09 – TONY’S OUTRO PT.2 ft. Tony Tone
I had to go back and listen to TONY’S OUTRO PT.1 to figure out what was going on with the title! I wanted a beat change up for when Tony comes in to take out the album and it really worked and picked up the energy. I like intros and outros that are short tracks.
Tone Beatz has been a favorite the past few years, producing two amazing projects with All Hail Y.T. and killing every placement he gets. His story working in music goes back a decade. He has worked with Working Class Music Group putting out instrumental projects, and shows no plans on slowing down.
RD: How long have you been involved in production?
TB: Since I was about 12. I stole my cousin’s keyboard (Casio Sk5) back then and started teaching myself how to chop samples.
RD:Some of your early work is Hustler’s Science an instrumental album with a theme. Would you consider that your first body of work?
TB: Yeah it was, big shout out to Illastrate for helping me put it altogether. Real talk I really want to do a sequel with All Hail Y.T. & Left Lane Didon.
RD: Looking back to 2014-15, what area would you say you evolved at the most in your music?
TB: Digging, and studying my art! Summer of 2016 I studied Quincy Jones film scores like The Anderson Tapes, and old southern Gospel albums like The Violinaires. Then I’d study some Dilla or Madlib and observe their freedom of creativity.
RD:A few years after the Working Class Music material, you linked up with one of our favorites; All Hail Y.T. You did Street Poisoned last January, and a year later struck again with The Spoils of Babylon. Talk to us about the working relationship with him, and how you guys initially linked.
TB: That’s the homie, we met through a mutual friend about 15 years ago and vibed ever since. This dude is meticulous, when he approached me about doing Street Poisoned we were just doing jawns. When the time came to do Spoils Of Babylon he had everything in place. His vision was clear, this dude is my favorite artist I ever worked with period.
RD: What kind of relationship has to be established in order to fully produce a project?
TB: The Vibe! I gotta feel your vibe and your vision gotta be clear. Last but most importantly you gotta be dope!
RD: In March you were able to lend some of your talents to Y.T. and GeneralBackPain’s collaborative effort Classic Villains. Heath Ledger As Joker will go down in infamy, monster cut. Take us into creating that record.
TB: Y.T. hit me up asking me for some grimy beat, just before he call I was digging thru horror movie soundtracks. Right after that call, I grab a record and say ‘let me vibe to this’. No lie right when the needle hit the groove that horn stab came blaring through the speakers. I said ‘that’s it!’. After I finished the beat and sent it he hit me back five minutes later saying that’s the one.
RD: We feel Killy Shoot and GeneralBackPain are two of the finest up and comers in Underground Hip Hop. Killy Shoot is readying his next project These Violent Delights fully produced by you. How did that relationship develop?
TB: I agree! When I heard Arm & Hammer I became a fan. Killy Shoot’s flow and delivery are so unique. I sent him a DM and we started building.
RD:In a world full of gear and equipment, what are some pieces that you have had your eye on?
TB: Right now I’m eyeing the MPC One, and I’m very curious about the SP 2400. Grew up watching Pete Rock make beats on the SP 1200, that might be my next machine!
RD:If you could enlist any five talents for a Tone Beatz album, who are you calling?
TB: Besides the homies All Hail Y.T. , Left Lane,Jay Nice, & Chris Skillz. I would love to rock out with Rome Streetz, Ransom, Tha God Fahim, Planet Asia, Benny.
RD: For those unfamiliar, who comprises Widowmaker and how long have you been active under that moniker?
W: Widowmaker is composed of Grant Burgess and Guttah Grey. In 2014 we started collaborating as Widowmaker. We began working in our home studios, which were a block away from each other. The last record produced in these studios was Lamy.
RD: Is there a particular division of labor when creating?
W: As Widowmaker, we almost always work together at our studio. We dig from our collection of rare shit, and go digging often with a concept in mind. Our process is time consuming. Lots of setting up and tearing down analog gear, live instruments, and media sources. We run a lot of our samples and our recordings of instruments reel to reel. We dig the natural compression that tape offers, although we have and use some very nice analog compressors. We talk, think, build and just take our time no matter what. I think it’s why we’ve managed to make our own sound in a genre that has a lot of material that sounds the same. As far as division, (Guttah speaking now) Grant Burgess is a monster born among mere mortal men. We usually build from his station, but we have 2x stations on a massive “L” shaped desk, and utilize both often during Widowmaker productions. Grant’s one of those dudes that can do anything musically, it’s a true honor to work with him.
RD: In 2015 you guys teamed up with Ayatollah to form Colossus, releasing a full-length instrumental album with him. How did that come about?
W: Strangely enough, Ayatollah was living in our hometown. Guttah was referred to him by a friend to help him record some material. Tollah came to Guttah’s house and was surprised to see a full production studio. After hearing our early Widowmaker material, he said, “Oh shit. You make beats? Let’s make some beats.” Over the next six months, we worked together to create Colossus–Widowmaker’s first vinyl release.
RD: Fast forward to 2018 and we have the Lamy/Stay Awake drop under Trevor Lang’s imprint. You would go on to do your latest venture with him as well, tell us how that relationship formed.
W: We had been following Trevor Lang’s work since 2016. His immaculate releases and visionary art and design appealed to us. We reached out to Trevor to talk about releasing the Colossus record on cassette under the Trevor Lang imprint. Although the cassette never came to fruition, we stayed in touch and conceptualized future collaborative projects with him. We had been looking for the right way to release a track that we had produced that featured Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, and Trevor imagined a more ambitious release. Trevor recommended adding Sauce Heist and Al Divino to the track, and we agreed. As fans of both rappers, we thought it would work great. We worked with him over the next few months finalizing the audio while Trevor designed the artwork. We then got permission from our family Hell Razah to release Stay Awake on the same 7”. We produced a full length for Razah that will see the light of day sometime soon we hope. Peace and love to our brother Hell Razah.
After LAMY, we started talks with Trevor about starting a label, although the label wasn’t created until OTEC was finished. Golden Analogue was born. Right now Golden Analogue operates out of Oregon (Widowmaker) and New Jersey (Trevor). Widowmaker handles the fulfillment from our studio, and it functions like a Swiss watch. OTEC orders shipped out with a quickness; we have 36 records left right now. Shout out Trevor Lang as always. We saw something special in him from the get go, and it’s a true honor to be partners in Golden Analogue with him. We’ve set a new standard in physical media creation, and we’re very proud of that. 180g gatefold wax, in hand and ready to ship, is the standard. It is very expensive to manufacture, which lessens our profit margins, but what’s really important here is giving the buyer an experience. That being said, we still buy a lot of $40-$60 dollar records from the genre because we view it as supporting artists we care about. Almost all of these genre records are standard wax, standard jacket. Please keep buying these records and supporting all the renaissance cats, just include Golden Analogue on your shopping list and you’ll be happy ya did so.
RD: The brand new work is An Open Tomb… An Empty Casket. A unique offering where you guys produce Side B of another full-length instrumental album while Big Ghost LTD handles Side A. What was the process like developing this?
W: We had been speaking with Big Ghost LTD shortly after dropping LAMY. After corresponding for months and getting acquainted, we knew we had to just ask the big homie. Big Ghost maneuvers with integrity and honor 100% of the time. We then reached out to our relatively new friend and hit him with the idea of releasing a split instrumental LP on 180g vinyl. He said that he was down and recommended we house the record in a gatefold jacket. Both camps then started building. This record took about a year from first sample to a purchasable product. We dug our entire side along the way, taking our time and layering strange instruments we have at our studio. The process was the same way we approach most Widowmaker production: meet up at the studio, dig together or review samples we found individually, sit at our stations, and just take our time with it. We’re never in a hurry to finish a product, that’s why we don’t set release dates until we have a product worth selling in our hands. Big Ghost is plainly and simply a fucking monstrous genius. He hit us with his amazing arrangement at the perfect time along the project. We have a lot of respect for him as an artist and a friend. Shout out Coke Ceps!
RD: Is there a certain freedom in the instrumental realm?
W: Most definitely. We have the freedom to explore whatever sound we want. We both bring very different things to the table when we’re working on Widowmaker material. It just sounds different than our solo material, but also different from a lot of production that we listen to. We just love to experiment musically and our studio is like a 2nd home to us. Making purely instrumental records forces us to do what we really love: paying close attention to every measure, every note, every sound. Our records aren’t simply accompaniments to rappers, although they are that as well. They’re pieces that stand alone. We design our records with the listener in mind and work to make each production engaging and intricate.
RD: Will you guys ever fully produce a vocal album?
W: Absolutely! We just wanted to sharpen our swords, build our name, and put out some crazy music to show we can handle a full length rap record. We will wait until we’re blue in the face to find the right cat to do this with. We simply will not work with some shitty rapper. This is why we don’t sell beats, we trade beats. Now and then we make 2x beats and send them to a rapper. These are dudes we hand pick and who agree to work with us. They pick one beat to keep and send us back the other with rhymes for our stash. Expect to see some of these released as singles, possibly on wax. You’ll also see “Prod by Widowmaker” popping up on some releases soon There’s some epic material in there, we’re simply never in a hurry. When the time is right, it will be right.
RD:What is the next move?
W: Man, so many. Build Golden Analogue, Grant has next level solo material coming, keep teaching music production, there’s always a Widowmaker solo record being slowly built along the way at any given point, to keep conceptualizing and implementing our strategies to move forward.
RD: If you could pick any five vocal talents to hop on a WM album, who are you calling?
W: No real order to this, but DOOM, Con & West would be dope to do a LAMY part 2. Daniel Son, Rigz, and Mooch are very dope. We’re very content doing instrumental albums right now, we’d love to do some more concept split LPs with some producers that we feel would fit well. I don’t want to say their names, as we will be reaching out to them.