Wednesday, September 1

Interview With a Digger: Gensu Dean

Interview With a Digger: Gensu Dean

It's time to build with the older gods. Just based on this brotha's crates, beatmaking style and unyielding loyalty to the EMU SP-1200, Gensu Dean has lots of knowledge to drop. Check the perspective of a pre-internet digger.

Peace, God. First off, how long have you been digging and what got you started?

Peace! Wow if I answer that truthfully it will reveal my age (lol). Well, i've been diggin real real strong since 92'. As a kid I would buy records from time to time but 92' was the year I started to really go in. Wanting to own my own records as a kid is what got me stated, by parents playing records and jamming out always had me open. But once i got a hold of Hip hop and beats its was OVER!

What was the first record you ever bought?

"Walk this Way" Run Dmc 45' picture cover from a Kmart in Tennessee!

I remember the days when K Mart sold records!

I just heard that Fat Beats in NYC (and all other stores) was closing for good. Have you ever dug there? And it kills me when I hear that vinyl records are making a comeback, but huge stores are closing. Will you ever give up vinyl?

Yes i have dug, at FB (in) NY. I support a lot of indy hip hop and copped mad release the last time I was uptop (NY). My man DJ Spinna took me to Fatbeats and i spent a grip$$$$$$. NO, NO, No, NO I will NEVER give up vinyl or any of the fundamental principles of true hip hop culture. I don't know anything else. Simple.

Is it something about vinyl that you love? As a child of the 80’s, I probably had more cassettes than records at one point.

Me too. With vinyl there its more of an experience by having the album art work, liner notes, and just the overall feel of the vinyl is GREAT. dropping the needle as oppose to clicking a mouse just does not compare.

I agree totally.

I know you’re a producer because of the “Gone Digging” 45 you produced for Oxygen which is ill by the way, but does your daily existence revolve around music? In other words, do you make music for a living?

Thank you kind sir, all praise is HIS! My daily existence revolves around music however; I currently do not make a living off of it....YET!

*that's my copy..I don't know if it's still available on 45, yall can get at Dean for more info*

Speaking of that record, it’s amazing how you captured that classic boom-bap hip hop with that loop. What break is that?

no comment (((insert cricket & outside noise here)))

ha ha..classic answer. Never reveal a break! I know which one it is cause I used it on a beat I did recently....but no worries...I'll never tell.

Just looking at some of your Facebook pics, I see you got crazy heat and history in the digging game. You gotta tell me the story on how you got those Stark Reality joints!

Word. I copped my first copy for $1.00, in one of my spots in Mississippi - which has since closed :-( I had no idea what it was at the time. I knew The Beatnuts had looped a children's record for a joint so i was like kool, I'm going to keep my eye out for some kids records. well, I dug out the Joe Quarterman because that had kids crayon drawings on the from (I wasn't hip to that at the time either) and then I saw Stark! All for $1.00 each. Imagine my face when I got to the crib and played Stark and heard "Conrad"!!!!!! Stark may be my favorite record in my collection. some how I ended up with (3) copies, but two were missing a record (its a double lp).

Wow. good finds! Truthfully, I never even heard of it until Stones Throw reissued it. Even then, and still now, I'm not really impressed with it musically. I sounds like a slightly better than typical jazz-rock-fusion record (with a silly album name). I had it on a burned cd from years ago and really just got around to listening to it with a critical ear. And, on ebay, I haven't seen this record go for less than 600$ Insane. I'm going to upload this rip I have of it soon. I want to know what people really think of it.

How did you evolve as a digger? Like, what lesson would you give a dude who just starting hitting the thrift stores to make beats?

I evolved just by A LOT of trial and error. I did not have a portable, there were not websites, or blogs, or even youtube to look for breaks. I spent tons of cream $$$ buying wack records. Over time your knowledge base grows. Lessons I would give is to not get trapped in years or genres. This is something I learned from the honorable Dilla and the masterful DJ Premier! Also, don't buy records because XXX sampled it. That's wack unless there is something else on the rec you can flip. Try to DO YOU!

Very good advice.

Are the so-called classic breaks necessary for beat makers nowadays? I think every producer should chop the “Funky Drummer” sample at least once!

I believe they should at least hunt for them. It would be fun and serve as a boot camp type exercise! but good luck finding some of them lollololol.

What was digging like back in the day? It seems like you had to unearth new shit to have the illest beats. I mean, you really had to dig! How is it different from today?

You are correct, obscure "un-used" breaks were mega important. It would define who you were as a producer, and authenticate your existence as a Hip hop producer. Today, no one cares if you have an original copy, sample vinyl or mp3. Or even if you took it straight from youtube!!!! so wack man...just plain wack.

What’s the most you’ve paid for a record?

$90 out of my pocket and into the sellers hand. (I hope my wife doesn't read this, or I'm gonna be in trouble lmao!)

Well, I just copped a sealed copy of "Organ Grinder" by William St Clair, "Ain't No Ambulances For No Nigguhs Tonight" by Stanley Crouch, "Free Huey" by Stokley Carmichael, "The Wisdom of Malcolm X" (3lp with the booklet), "You Gotta Wash Yo Ass" by Redd Foxx, a Spiderman record, two other Black Forum records (which I had no idea was owned by Motown!) for like 100$. All this with my wife waiting outside of Atomic Records in North Hollywood, CA. I hope she ain't reading this!

How many records do you own? Any 45’s?

6,000+ Lp's / 300+ 45's

Is there one genre that you collect the most of? What’s your favorite artist in that genre?

No favorite one, I collect jazz/soul/funk/pop/rock/psych/prog/fusion i check for it all man, word.

What do you think about those comps that give you the classic breaks and samples, like Ultimate Beats and Breaks, Dusty Fingers, Super Disco Brake’s, etc.?

Well, good for the veteran diggers who have stripes from years of diggin and may need cleaner copies or just doubles. But no no for these new jacks! ctually, i wish we could get rid of them all together.

What’s your production setup? I know you use the Emu SP-1200. I have a Asr-10,Mpc1G, a MicroKorg and Proteus 2000 and the Sp-1200. You just stick to the SP-1200?

EMU Sampling Percussion 1200 / technique 1210 / records

How do you get around the 10 seconds of sample time on the SP? Or does that limitation sharpen the skills of producers? Personally, I don’t see how yall do it!

The 10 second limited sample time heightens my creativity, and prevents me from becoming "sample lazy". also it represents a almost forgotten era and shaped the sound of hip hop in general.

It's a love-hate relationship with the SP for me. Serious...when I first got my ASR, I was pissed off that it had only like 30 seconds of sample time!

What’s the better Label, Stax or CTI?

Wow, I'm bias to Stax. Both are great in their own right, hard to compare especially since they release two different genres of music.

CTI never fails to surprise me.

When you go into a record store, what do you hit first, wall joints, new arrivals or the dollar bin?

New arrivals, dollar bins last (but probably check the wall first) :-)

I always check the wall first. Always.

Are you a traditionalist when it comes to digging or do you have e-crates? What’s your opinion on the way music is disseminated? Does one help or hurt the other? Do you dig on ebay?

Yes I'm a traditionalist, but to a point. I recognize this/times have changed. e-crates are kool however; I'm not going to sample from that source. I have to keep to what i know & understand to be true and foundational. It hurts the game because now any clown with a computer can have the same rare joint i have dug up and loop it. Or chop it with these software programs. There was a time diggin, sampling, beatmaking as a whole was special and now everyone does/and can do it. Its sad. Yes I do ebay. So many people on the diggin fad that it makes it difficult for me to go out and dig (get outta the way...uuuggghhh!) lol

I just hope these new kids develop a love for the music they sample and are inspired to go out digging.

You have any weird or interesting digging stories?

8 million stories in the naked city!

Ha. I love that song.

And, finally, what do you have coming up and how can people get in touch with you for beats, music, etc.?

I have a single soon to drop from my forthcoming album, in which my album will shortly follow. there will be a digi download of the single & limited 7" vinyl. Cats can get at me on Facebook or follow me on thank you kindly for this time. pEACE!!

Peace to the God, Dean.