Sunday, January 2

Interview With a Digger 2011: Dawhud

Let's start 2011 with an interview. My man Dawhud from answers the questions about digging, making beats and equipment. A soldier of the classic Emu Sp-1200, he's also got an interesting story on another staple sampler, the Akai S950. Check it.

So, what got you into digging and what was the first record you ever bought?

The 1st tape I bought was Prince's "Batman" soundtrack when I was nine years old. For as long as I can remember I was going through my parent's record collection, playing with their 45s and LPs. As young as 12 I was raiding Goodwill and garage sales picking up classic records like Jimi Hendrix, Gladys Knight, The Doors and Cheech & Chong. Although I was kind of diggin' I wasn't really looking for samples and thinking about production, I was just into music and records. When I started getting serious about diggin' and making beats, I'd say my first record was Grover Washington's "Mister Magic." I found that in a free bin at one of my favorite spots and the only reason why I copped it was because I remembered seeing it in one of those inner sleeves you'd see when you get a record and they'd show what other LPs they had in their catalog. I snatched it up, took it home and damn... that was it. I had to do something with it. (That's when I originally made "Wild Style" back in 97-98... my senior year of high school).

How long have you been digging? How many records do you own?

Too long. If you count when I got serious making beats? 12-13 years I guess, but like I was saying, I've been kind of doing it forever. I honestly don't know how many records I have. I can tell you with every move it gets progressively worse. I sell records on ebay, but for every record I get rid of, I gain one or two. There's at least a couple "K" not counting CDs and tapes. I also inherit records. When people have relatives pass or they raid their closet, garage, etc... I usually end up with them. I have my records sorted in a couple different ways, too. I've got all my hip hop records together and alphabetical, but everything else is kind of clumped together by genre. For example, I've got all my CTI records together, but they're not alphabetical. I then have all of the records I KNOW I want to work with together in a crate next to my gear.

Do you dig just to make beats? You Dj? Collect?

I started off just into records. I was a huge hip hop fan since '85 when I first remember hearing Run DMC. I remember doing baby scratches with my mom's 45s and giving them BAD cue burn when I was 12. My mom had the "ABC" 45 and when "O.P.P." came out I would try to scratch with the 45 because of the sample. I wanted to DJ and tried to make some beats but didn't know how to really do it. I ended up saving up money and getting a Casio Rapman which was a little keyboard with a jog wheel that made scratch efx and a mic that you could change the pitch on your voice. It was basically a toy and I couldn't do anything beatwise like what I listened to. (Black Sheep, Gangstarr, BDP) I then started doing pause mix beats with the tape deck or whatever I could get my hands on. When I finally was able to cop some gear and started officially making beats I then thought about laying my own cuts over my tracks. I had some wack beltdrive turntables that honestly taught me to be real light on my fingers when scratching records. My boys and I all wanted to get into turntablism, so that summer I remember all of us were busting our asses at our summer jobs to save up for some Technics or a Vestax mixer. Out of all of my friends I think I was the only one that really stuck with it. I DJ'd at parties, some clubs in Seattle and was in a trip hop band for a while.

What’s the most you’ve dropped on a record and what was it?

I'm a frugal ass digger. Honestly, I think the most I've spent on a record was like $20 and that was when I was in that trip hop band. They were doing a lot of spy sounding tracks and I found a copy of the score for "Man From U.N.C.L.E." for $20. What pissed me off later was we never ended up using any of it for the tracks we were working on and I ended up finding another copy in the dollar bin like a year later. I think I may have spent $16-17 on my first copy of Bob James' "One" back in '98-'99, but I'm all about the dollar bins. Now... I don't have a problem with cats buying records from my collection for high prices because that's happened quite a few times.

Although I do REALLY enjoy records I'm not SO anal about how mint they are. I LOVE the crackle of dusty records. Nowadays a lot of cats want everything to have this almost digital gloss to all of their music, including samples and I think that's what a lot of hip hop is missing... that grit, that crackle, that static, those pops and snaps. I mean... that's hip hop, that's a lot of what made this music and culture what it is. So, if there's a shiny fancy copy of "X" record for $50 and a decent copy with a little wear for $4, I'm copping the $4 record, no doubt. In a way I feel like the $4 record has more of a story to tell than the one that's never been played. It was loved, abused, forgotten and lost until I found it and gave it a new life.

What advice would you give to the young heads out there about digging?

Dollar bins, don't be afraid of getting dirty, be nice to your knees and don't look over my shoulder to see what I'm diggin'. Phawk... there needs to be some etiquette for diggin'. Not that I'm one of those cats that's real competitive with trying to pull things out of the bin, but I've been to SO many spots and assholes get up next to me and MOVE my phawking stack that I'm pulling out so they can flip through the records I set my stack on. YO, DON'T TOUCH MY ISH! I PUT THOSE RECORDS THERE BECAUSE 1) THOSE ARE MY RECORDS, 2) WHERE I SET THOSE RECORDS DOWN IS THE NEXT CRATE I'M GOING THROUGH and 3) THOSE ARE MY PHAWKING RECORDS! (shaking fist)

Ha ha..I feel you on that!

On the real, if you're down for this you have to be ready to go to some questionable spots. I've been diggin' in barns on the Oregon coast in the middle of winter with no heat, to places where I thought I'd get shot, to antique shops where they filmed "Twin Peaks," basements, cities, states, countries... You have to be down to be in spots that smell from the mold, dust and hippie funk. Bring some hand sanitizer homie.

Do you have a particular method when you dig? I really think 50% of digging is pure luck!

I totally agree. The best part is getting something that you take a chance on and it's so friggin' dope you make that "who farted" face when you throw it down. I know I have my proverbial Christmas list of records I'm looking for, but most of the time I'm trying to just dig something that I've never seen or heard before. One of my former co-workers when I worked at a record store told me, "You can't judge a book by it's cover, but you can judge a record by it's cover." There's truth in that, but at the same time for a while, when I was developing my style I would try to find some straight up cheesy looking records and they usually had something dope on them. My philosophy is that even wack records have something dope on them. I've bought wack records that had one dope open snare and it was totally worth it. You just have to be willing to dig deep within the record to find that diamond in the rough, I guess.

What about the “digi-diggers?” There seems to be a proliferation of people that claim to solely dig online. Could it be the end of fieldwork if virtually everything has been digitized?

Well... it's easy and yeah, it's great to just type in "Nautilus" and you get a ton of hits. Click, click, DL. But, you're not getting your hands dirty. I guess it's the difference between the theory and the practice. It's like in school, you study to be a doctor but outside of the classroom you've never done surgery. I know a lot of the new jacks would think that's some "grumpy old men" steeze, but I embrace diggin' online too. You just need balance. Some of the rare joints I've found, I've even done google searches to see if anybody has posted them and I've received no hits. So, right there, you have an example of how you may find some dope stuff online, but if you're not in the record store you may be missing out.

Personally, I think music is endless. But a lot of people also think that oil is an infinite resource (which ain’t true). Do you think there will be a time where everything worth finding is eventually discovered?

What are you talking about, dinosaurs die everyday?! HAHA I agree and I'll just kind of expand on what I was saying earlier. I saw an interview with J-Zone and he was talking about his tape collection and he was saying that there's a massive amount of albums that only made it to tape and you can't find them on iTunes. Same goes with records. There are TONS of records that never made it to tape or CD. There's tons of old music that's part of some treasure trove somewhere and tons of new music being made everyday. I worked with a rather eccentric guy at a record store who was trying to collect everything that was actually in the price guide. He was in his mid to late 40s and had been collecting for ages. When I knew him, he had a warehouse in Ballard just full of records and his turntable was lost in the mass of boxes and records since 1991. (this was in '04) At that point he said he was up to "L" or "M" I believe. Just crazy...

I think Hip Hop production goes through phases based on digging trends..for example, the late 80’s was the James Brown sample era, and the 90’s was all about obscure Jazz. How would you define this era in regards to digging?

I think the last 10 years have been more about 70's soul records. We had the Kanye (or RZA, depending on who you talk to) 45 sped up vocal samples that seemed to be in everything for a minute, along with the Curtis Mayfield dirty pimp gutter struttin' soul samples chopped the phawk out all over the track. What's funny is sometimes you'll have a record and not dig what's on it and in a few years as things shift you'll listen to it and go, "HEY, why didn't I sample that?"

Do you think it’s important for the new cats to own the classic Hip Hop breaks and B-boy records? Does it really matter? Are these records relevant anymore?

Well... trying to get an actual copy of the joint on record may be even harder for these cats. (That is if you're really wanting an original pressing) I know cats that are older than me frown upon the cats that just bought the break records instead of digging up the originals like how cats frown on kids just DLing records instead of actually having a record. Regardless, you need "Apache," you need "Impeach the President," you need "Synthetic Substitution," "Brand New Day," "Big Beat," etc... They're building blocks and a foundation. You need to know who or what the drums are that you've heard on all of your favorite hip hop and electronic songs.

I'll admit before I got really into collecting records I just would say, "oh... those are the drums from Public Enemy" instead of saying it's the break from "Funky Drummer." Although hip hop is revisionist history with music and culture of our past, we need to understand our past music and culture so we can appreciate what we're revisiting and making new.

There seems to be a Civil War between chopping and looping among producers. Just looping a sample is now considered wack. What’s your take on this?

All of your favorite classic hip hop records are based on loops. (game over) HAHA Well like I said before, you need balance with it. Chopping stuff up can be cool, but there are so many cats that chop up samples to the point of it being annoying. If a groove is funky, let it ride. If it's something that everybody has heard and you flip it in a new way, that's dope because it's like we all know the ingredients and you're making a new dish out of it. Sometimes a sample may be considered played out, but you flip it and it becomes innovative. But, if it's something that nobody has heard... you can let it ride a little, homie. Sometimes I'll hear the OG sample and what they chopped it up into and it's like, "you ruined it, it was better if you just let it chill."

(Battle beat)

I'm actually working on a project called "Revisionist History," which has been a real labor of love for a minute. I'm taking the same samples that were used on classic hip hop tracks and redoing them. Sometimes I'm chopping them up and sometimes I'm letting it ride. I want people to still be able to go, "Oh... that's 'Microphone Fiend'" without it being SO cut up that you're wondering what song I'm redoing. A lot of cats that have heard what I've done have really dug it, but there are some people that have said it sounds too close to the original. For instance, there's the B. White joint that was used for "I Got Cha Opin" and honestly, you can't really phawk with it too much because it loses the vibe.

(RH examples)

Who are your top 3 favorite producers?

There are the "Miss America" responses that a lot of cats say, so I'm going to say what producers heavily influenced me.

Da Beatminerz - Honestly if it wasn't for Blackmoon's "Enta Da Stage" and Smif N Wessun's "Da Shinin" I don't know what I'd be doing. I most likely would have gotten into making beats, but I don't know if I would have been doing some of the beats I've made in the past. The type of records they used, the filtering, the drums... it was one the reasons why I wanted to get an SP-1200.

Showbiz/Show - "Runaway Slave" was a classic and then when they followed it up with "Goodfellas" it was game over. Both LPs were SO filthy and the production styles so varied. "Runaway Slave" was your NY early 90's DITC vibe with jazz horns and loops. Show was using the SP-1200/950 combo and taking it to the limit with the arrangements and layers. Then when "Goodfellas" dropped, he had this different style- it was dark, grimy and just hit so hard. It really reflected the album cover, simple... black and white with just a little bit of color. It was this jam that I always played at night. Those drums were so ill.

Prince Paul - He defined De La for those first three records, which are all classics in my book. He was taking everything from Bob James to childrens records and making them sound like they all belonged together. He developed skits AND the idea of hip hop being smart enough to have a concept album. If it wasn't for "De La Soul is Dead" or "Prince Among Thieves" I don't know what "Basement Sessions" would have developed into.

So, I know you are a producer, and I know you use the Emu SP-1200. What else do you use?

There's a bunch of stuff I use and have used in the past for various sounds and effects. I've incorporated a mixture of gear with software for my production set up. What I usually end up doing is building the foundation with the SP or the MPC, load it into Acid and add layers or chop it up more in there. Sometimes I'll make a whole joint with the gear and sometimes I'll make the entire beat in Acid, but usually it's a mixture of the two.

Akai S950
Akai MPC2000
Ensoniq EPS
Fender Rhodes
Bass guitar
Acid Pro
Pro Tools
Casio Rapman (still use it for the efx)

Wow. Casio Rapman? I always thought that was a toy! Impressive as usual..

Why the classic SP-1200?

Honestly, I could always remember my favorite producers saying over and over
again, "SP-1200." I liked the sound and why not? I was able to get my SP when cats were leaving it behind to fully adopt the MPC.

Over the next few years a lot of cats moved on and I would kind of get clowned on for still using an SP, but I thought, a lot of my favorite hip hop songs were done with an SP, so why not use the 12bit sound that I loved so much to make my own music. They'd usually comment saying, "yeah, that's dope if you want your ish to sound like Pete Rock" and I would just think, that's exactly WHY I use it you dumb sh!t. HAHAHA Now it's kind of getting vogue again. Cats seem to drool now when I tell them I have an SP and they retain their value so it's harder for new jacks to get their hands on one when it's a heck of a lot less expensive to cop an S950 or a classic EPS for $200.

There's just something about that 12bit crunch on an SP. It makes your drums hit so hard and just have this buttery sound. The EPS, MPC60 and S950 are all 12bit, but they don't seem to have the same exact sound as the SP-1200. I threw up a simple drum kit of some hits I had from my SP, that I know you put up on your blog, and everybody went crazy over those drums. I originally did that kit as a favor for some cat and shared it with a few peeps I know, but then about a year later I threw it up for people to DL and it just took off. What's funny is when I hear someone on one of my forums use those drums on a beat they throw up for cats to hear. Even layered under a couple hits, I can hear them. I think it's great and am kind of flattered by it.

(SP kit)!download|268cg|403943859||1294

What’s the magic of the SP/S950 set up? I’m got my “chops” on the ASR, but many people swear by this combo. What’s it all about?

You had limited time on the SP to 10 seconds, but for the most part it's more than enough for making something. The 950 had more memory than the SP and you could expand it even further to get even more out of the machine. You were able to change the sample rate to also save memory and dirty up your sound. Also, it had time stretching on it allowing you to take a sample, save the pitch and stretch it to fit whatever you were using. The 950 didn't have a sequencer on it, it was basically just the engine of the MPC60, so you had to midi it up to another piece of gear to fully use it. A lot of cats at the time had the SP, so naturally they just midi'd the two together to use the sequencing of the SP with the sampling and effect features of the 950 to make some ill music, like the prior mentioned "Runaway Slave."

Tell us that infamous story about how you got your S950.

Well, what's funny is the whole reason I wanted a 950 was because of the line Large Pro said on "Mad Scientist" when he said, "Put it in the S950 and stretch it!" At the time I was studying a lot of my favorite albums and trying to see what made them tick, hence being in the market for an EPS and an S950. I had been bidding on several 950s with no luck on winning any of them and then finally I bid on this one that didn't really have a fancy description or a ton of pictures, just pretty basic. I bid on it and I think I got it for just a little over $200.

I then got this simple email from a Largepro321

Thanx for your quick payment! Your Akai S 950 will be shipped first
thing tomorrow morning! Positive feedback will be posted once you've
notified me that you've received your item! Thanx again! Peace!


I think I made a complete fool of myself in a reply saying some ish like, "That's cute... Large Pro's your online name, but if you ARE Large Pro... blah bliggity blah blah." I then went home and dug out my Main Source and Large Pro records to see that his real name was William Paul Mitchel. I'm thinking... hmmm.... and then I tracked the box and it left NY... hmmm. A week goes by and I'm home when UPS drops the box off and it says W. P. Mitchel on the shipping tag. I honestly think I screamed like a girl.

Fast forward to this April when I had a gig with Louis Logic and he crashed at my pad that night. In the morning all of us were talking and I was showing everyone my studio when I mention the S950. Louis then stopped and said, "YOU'VE GOT LARGE PRO'S 950?!" "Yeah." "Yo, my friend was working with Large Pro and telling me about when he was going to sell it. Holy sh!t YOU'RE the person that got it!"

I only wonder what records I have in my collection that he made with it. I tried to contact him when myspace was the easy way to get in touch with artists and ask him what records he made with it, but never heard anything back. I can only imagine.

How do you approach beatmaking? Where do you start? Sample? Drums? I actually take a dump and eat half a box of Cheez-its before I start.

I go two ways, the sample or the drums, it just depends on my mood. I will say, usually it's easier if I start off with a sample I find and then add drums to compliment it. Sometimes I'll get some ill drums or sequence this HARD pattern but will take ages finding what samples I want to layer over it. Once I have the basics done, like I mentioned earlier, I'll then load it up into Acid and use that as a pseudo multitrack for recording. I'll then maybe chop it up a little more, add some more samples and throw on some cuts. And let me tell you, adding cuts is just as hard as finding the right sample to layer over some drums. I'll mentally go through my library to find exactly what I want the track to literally say. That's really something that's been missing from hip hop in the last few years, scratching. Now it seems, outside of Primo, DJs only yell over a song. And no diss to Serato, but now it's all about microwave/instant DJs in a box. Granted, there's still skill needed, but it's not like it was not too long ago when cats would practice on their cuts and blends for HOURS.

I actually did a track called "Process" for my as yet untitled project which I go from the record to the MPC and then reflect on how I used to do it when I was younger and how in many ways nothing's changed. My man Justanother DJ from the UK produced that track and I laid down the vocals and cuts.

(See Process track produced by STMB's Justanother DJ, cuts and vocals by Dawhud)

Do you have a favorite year to find records (to sample) from? There's just something magical about '74 to '76 in my opinion. But the 80's are the light skinned n*ggas making a comeback!"

The 70's are always great, but for a long time I was all about early 60's symphonic records and big band music when I was finding my sound. Tracks like "From This Moment On," "World Premier" or "Inspiration" were done with symphonic orchestrated LPs, scores and jazz standards. Lately, I've really been diggin' some 70's soul because you can't go wrong with that, but I'm open to almost anything and everything.

Any particular genre you like the best? The least?

To expand on the last question... with those big band type of jazz records they had these great horn hits and I know a lot of people just write off that sound/genre, but there's some great sounds on those records. And due to how they recorded a lot of those songs back then, they have this dirty muted sound to them already. I think a lot of people dismiss all of that early jazz and big band music like how a lot of people didn't think about diggin' bossanova records until recently. Do I think it'll become the next "IT" with beat digging? No, but I think you should be open to everything, even country music. I've honestly found some ILL drumbreaks with bass lines on 70's country records. Hip hop is a hybrid of so many different genres of music that if you aren't fully open to a variety of styles, you can't fully enjoy digging/record collecting and hip hop period.

Any weird or crazy digging stories? I recently found a stash of records in a house that was surrounded by a nest of wasps. I killed every last one of ‘em to get at those records!

I've had a few, but I'll tell you about the first time I went to Fat Beats in LA. I was visiting a friend that was going to USC and this was my first time going to Cali that didn't involve Mickey Mouse. I had a radio show at the time and my man, Mr. Carlos, told me, "You HAVE to go to there and get some ish for the show." I'd always heard of the LA store along with the legendary NY Fat Beats, but never had an opportunity to go. So, my friend had to go to school during the daytime and I told her, "no prob, I'll do my own thing, I've wanted to check out Fat Beats anyway." So, she left for class for the day and I called a cab to take me to Fat Beats. Boom! $20 out of my pocket. I'm standing there waiting for the place to open and then DJ C-Los opens the place up. I walked in and it was like hip hop Mecca. All these 12"s I had been looking for were there... Finsta Bundy, J-Live, Jigmastas, Non Fiction, Missin Linx, etc. It was overload. I'm digging through all of the crates and DJ Rhetmattic walks in, throws his DJ bag down and gets behind the front desk. I look at him and I'm thinking, "Oh sh!t... he WORKS here," and went back to digging. There was this copy of Rasco's "Unassisted" on one of the turntables on the counter that was cracked and had a note on it saying, "ONLY PLAY THE LAST SONG, DO NOT PLAY ANY OTHER CUT... CRACK!!!" Rhetmattic, presses play on the turntable and drops the needle on the first track. The record pulls around and rips the needle out of the cartridge. C-Los, looks at Rhettmatic, shakes his head and goes, "Psssssssssssshhhh." Rhettmatic then said he was sorry that he didn't read the note on the record and would replace the needle with one that he had back at his place. C-Los just looked at him like an annoyed older brother.

Life then went back to normal in the record store, I continue digging and adding to my stack. I then realized that if I got everything I wanted there would be only enough money for me to get a cab home and then I wouldn't really have any money for the rest of my trip. So, I decided... alright I've got enough cash that I could cop one of the Rawkus record bags they had, stuff everything in it, walk back to USC and then have a decent amount of cash for the rest of the week.

I know I didn't want to walk that distance with two OBVIOUS store bags of new records. So I make my way to the counter and Rhetmattic says, "Damn... you're getting a lot of records." I then say, "Yo... aren't you DJ Babu?" Rhetmattic looks at me like how C-Los looked at him minutes prior and said, "No." C-Los cracks a smile and says, "don't worry, he gets that all the time." I'm thinking, really, damn... he really looks like Babu... huh... oh well. I pay for my records, stuff my bag, walk out the door and try to remember how the heck I got here. Thankfully I was paying attention to where the cab was going and just worked my way backwards. About 20 minutes into the walk back to my friend's place on campus I realize, "OH, CRAP THAT WAS RHETMATTIC!" Damage done! I'm not going to walk back there to just show that I actually knew who he was, just keep it moving. HAHA

Now if you don't know, USC is in the middle of the friggin' hood. I'm talking bullet proof glass at the Pizza Hut when you pick up your pizza. Slide it in the tray, push it in and then they push the pizza out. I'm walking along and see all sorts of crazy ish like dead pittbulls on the side walk, boarded up homes, etc. I'm thinking, "just look like you know what you're doing and you'll be cool." I see up the street these MEAN looking chulos that are standing on the sidewalk, chillin', eating, drinking, smoking and looking at me like, "let's get this foo." I walk up and they step back like, "oh sh!t, this foo is crazy." I tell them "excuse me" and continue on my way. After about an hour or so I finally make it home, walk into her place, set my heavy a$$ bag down and look at my self in the mirror. I was sweaty and straight looked like I was going to shank someone. HAHA No wonder when I got close up they took a step back.

Man... just realized that's TWO stories of meeting/dealing with pretty well known hip hop cats and making an idiot of myself. HAHAHA

Better label: Hot Wax or K-Tel?

Good question. I probably have more K-Tel records in my stash, so, I'll go with that.

What order do you hit first: dollar bins, wall joints or the new arrivals?

I used to never dig for 45s and when I even worked at a record spot I totally neglected all the 45s we had there. (Shame) Last few years I've really been diggin' on some 45s and it always seems that nobody is diggin' through them, so I can plow through them and come up while everybody just focuses on the funk and jazz section. Now I'm hitting up the 45s, dollar bins and then checking out the regular sections. Always looking for late 80's and 90's hip hop 12"s and check all the used ish before I'm going through the new LPs and CDs.

Lastly, what do you have coming up and how can people get in touch with you?

I'm polishing up "Dub Styles," which is technically the mixtape that they talk about in "Basement Sessions." It's a play on the term "dub" as in mixtape and "dub" as in the majority of the sample sources are from reggae records. I had a rough version of the project that I leaked out over the summer, but I'm still tweaking the mixes and added a few more songs that really solidified the project. I'm hoping to have that officially out spring/summer so it can be a nice soundtrack for the warm months.

Also, working on a follow up to "Basement Sessions," which doesn't have a title at the moment along with the "Revisionist History" project. I recently put out a comp of old tracks called "Lost & Found" that I put up for DL on my site and Bandcamp. (those are demos, og versions, lost cuts and skits from 97'-00') It's essentially a companion to "Basement Sessions" because you can see where that project came from and how it really was a retelling of my high school and college years. And if you haven't checked "Basement Sessions"... iTunes, the other links below and this spot homie! (blog, music and more) @dawhud