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I KNOW, DIDN’T I :: INTERVIEW W/ NEW WEST COAST DUO SLIMKID3 & DJ NU-MARK

I KNOW, DIDN’T I :: INTERVIEW W/ NEW WEST COAST DUO SLIMKID3 & DJ NU-MARK

By Senay Kenfe

Within the music world, we, as fans, often contemplate grand pairings and supergroups that would have changed the world. When I think about this, it suddenly makes the existence of fantasy football more understandable to me. What would it have been like if that session between John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder had evolved into an actual album? Will we ever get anything from the Four Horsemen? What kind of heat did Pac plan to give us with his collab with the Boot Camp Clik that would have squashed the entire East Coast/West Coast media produced conflict?

When I first heard that Slimkid3 and DJ Nu-Mark had a new release coming out on Delicious Vinyl, I had one of those supergroup moments. For anyone born and - more importantly - raised in LA, the contributions Tre Hardson of The Pharcyde and Mark Postic of the Jurassic 5 have given to highlighting the local scene here are unrivaled. The Bizarre Ride album helped to set a alternative rich tone and admirably conscious playful juxtaposition to the excess of the G-Funk sound that LA was known for in the early ’90s. This was while the Jurassic 5 EP helped properly usher in the underground scene in along with acts like Black Star and Company Flow that backpackers like myself still find inspiration from.

On hiatus from their two respective camps, the two veterans teamed together and stuck to the essentials to provide us with a fresh new self-titled album that fits in perfectly with where the direction of hip hop needs to be heading right now. We got the chance to speak to the two of them after their in-store at Amoeba and build on what the new album means for them, the importance of proper sequencing, how production has gotten better but lyrics have gotten worse, and the disconnect they feel exists between the new school of emcees and their generation.

Sitting here with the infamous, the legendary DJ Nu-Mark and Slimkid3, do you want to say how it’s going to everybody?
Nu-Mark: What’s up? This is DJ Nu-Mark!

Slimkid3: This is Slimkid3!

Nu-Mark: We’re chilling with The Hundreds, I’m a fan, I wear the clothing; I get down with them.

That’s the perfect plug and we don’t even have to pay for it! I was born and raised in Long Beach, and just to be here in the same place and same time with members of Jurassic 5 and Pharcyde is a blessing. What is the connection that you guys have with each other? Obviously, you guys had known each other previously, but did you guys know each other from earlier times like from the Good Life times?
Nu-Mark
: I met Tre years and years ago, J5 was recording at Hollywood Sound... It was part of J5, Chali 2na, Cut Chemist, and Marc 7. They had already started to make a name for themselves and we were just trying to get there. I met him briefly outside of the studio but hadn’t talked to him until much later. I originally approached him with my management and had an idea of forming a middle school supergroup and once we started recording, we decided not to do the supergroup idea and just continue.

Slimkid3: Because it was kind of hard to figure out who that would be - those parts would be for the supergroup. So along the way we just started recording and Nu sent me a whole lot of beats. He’s like, “Yo, this beat, you gotta mess with this beat, this is one of those bangers.” I was like, “I don’t know if I’m feeling it just yet.” He’s like, “No 3, check it out, try again.

I did and it was exactly - he just had a vision and it just really worked. Man, to this day this album itself is letting us know how good it is. Because we’re so heads in to our work that we don’t really see what we’ve done. And I’m like, “Wow, that really is a good record.”

We were sitting in the studio doing the sequencing. At first we didn’t know where things were going to go and then I think it was the next day, he just started playing songs out of his computer.

Nu-Mark: You know how your computer organizes your files either alphabetical or by date modified or whatever? I don’t know what mine was set as for his folder, but I just played it in order and that ended up being the exact sequence of the record; which is crazy.

It’s really unheard of considering how many countless hours I’ve put in sequencing J5 albums and my albums and side projects. It’s tedious; especially as a DJ you have to come correct, it has to be in the right order. You’ve got to hit them over the head at song number one and then roller coaster it throughout whatever, but this one we just kept looking at each other like, “Yeah, that worked, okay play the next one. Cool.” It was just eerie.

Slimkid3: We just got more excited and more excited, it was perfect, it worked out.

I don’t know if you want to reveal them, but what were the cuts that came about on this album - because I know you’re an avid digger; how long did it take you to dig what’s on the album?
Nu-Mark:
Well, that’s interesting, there’s some joints that I had that I couldn’t chop up and give it to an MC because I hadn’t found the right MC. A lot of cats that are in our middle school are looking for real hard nasty shit right now. If they’re not looking for really hard nasty shit then they’re looking for trapped out new, new-new club, shake that ass, Southern shit or whatever.

Tre just kind of has - I told him from the beginning, “Look, the goal here is to pick up with J5 left off and where Pharcyde left off. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, I’m not trying to be super futuristic, let’s just pick up where our crews left off because when we joined both our groups were split up. So let’s do something ill that represents the middle school correctly.”

Some had been with me for like 10 years plus, some I just copped like, “Oh, this is perfect for Tre,” and then we had one session where I just kept playing him shit - he had to actually leave like, “I’m late to the airport!” I’m like, “What about this? You feeling this? What about this?” I just kept hitting him over the head. He’s like, “No to that one, yes to that one, no to that one, yes to that one.” [laughs]

Why do you think people resonate so well with your style? [to Slimkid3] In the sense of like, you’re an MC but you also have a very sing-songy type of-

Both: Melodic crooning.

Slimkid3: ... I just looked at how Jimi Hendrix sings, and he just does it his way. I don’t know, I just did it. And by me doing that, it let hip-hop open up about it. “Oh, I can sing, I can croon.” And it’s cool because that’s more color to everybody’s pallette; that was awesome.

I think Freestyle Fellowship did it too with “Park Bench People” which was awesome. So that’s just where we were and I’m glad it happened, I’m glad I did it. [Lauren Heel] sang, it was just cool, people could do it. It brought out more color for hip-hop.

[Conceptually], being West Coast especially in the early [to] mid-'90s, what you two represented in your own particular camps was an alternative approach to hip-hop that - at least in the West Coast - helped connect me to a level of hip-hop that I wasn’t even used to. And I think it’s revolutionary. That’s why it’s crazy to hear this new album and feel like I’m at the same exact connecting level. Why do you think that - I don’t want to say resurgence of attention to the sound that you guys are bringing - but more [of an] appreciation of it?
DJ Nu-Mark: I personally think there isn’t. I don’t see it and I’m a DJ and always looking for new stuff. This is just my own experience from constantly looking for records and still buying old and new ones - I’m seeing a disconnect. There are new groups coming out but I guess the disconnect that I’m seeing is when Tre and I came out in the '90s there was a big respect for the old school cats - Herc, Bam - all the cats on the East Coast. We just took our hats off and said, “Yeah, without you there would be no us.” And we would try to actively work with those people and shout those people out in the interviews that we were doing back then just like I’m doing now.

The new school cats now pretty much stay in their own lane, it’s a different era. I’d like to see more new school cats work with middle school cats to bring that sound out that you’re talking about. It would be dope because I could easily see that with a Kendrick Lamar and I could easily see that with a lot of MCs. Kendrick is an exception though, because he encompasses a lot of the middle school flavor with his new swag.

I don’t see a lot out of that. I have a lot of groups that I like, like I love Tiron and Ayomari they’re close to that. I love - there’s a brother named Haas, he’s on my album. Funkghost, Funkghost is dope. There’s a lot of new cats I’m feeling but I wish there were more.

You’re saying that the connection between the younger generation and your generation is not as fluid as the one with the generation before you guys.
Nu-Mark:
Yeah from middle school to old school was a littler tighter in my opinion. Versus the new school and middle school connection, I think there’s a little bit of a disconnect.

Do you think that has anything to do with mentoring? [Like] how cats, like Public Enemy did the tour with Beastie Boys and Third Base and people that were younger than them. Or vice versa, do you think the disconnection is to be viewed in a business or a cultural sense?
Nu-Mark: I think it’s technology. I think since the Internet has come it’s the age of a quick fix; instant gratification. It’s also a really selfish era we’re living in, era of the selfies. The tools that us middle school cats used to use back in the day was like, “Okay, I got to get him to get on my record or I’ve got to get on his record to build hype.” You don’t really need that no more.

You need your computer, sent it out to your peeps, let it get out into the universe, create a new sound, or maybe not, maybe hit them with an 808 beat at 70 BPMs; that’s been going on for the last few years. And it’s a done deal.

That said, some of the beats I’m hearing are amazing because of the advancements in technology. Lyrically, different story. Beats have gotten courageous and contagious and big and they’ve borrowed from electronic music, but the editing has gotten really, really detailed. Call me spoiled for growing up in the '80s or whatever but I’m not hearing nobody that’s fucking with Big Daddy Kane right now. Or KRS-One or Chill Rob G or Rakim, Cool G Rap - I’m just not hearing that kind of wordplay that I used to hear. There are some exceptions, we mentioned Kendrick, but I’m just not hearing that.

“I have to be that guy, I’m going to have a plaque made that says, “Truth over the studio,” because you can’t lie when you get in the studio, not at my crib.” -DJ Nu-Mark

That’s understandable. How do you feel Tre?
Slimkid3: I don’t know man, I feel like I had a disconnect... My son’s 13 and I try to figure out what they’re listening to, I have no fucking idea. [Laugh] I have no fucking idea, I don’t get it. I listen to Odd Future, I like Earl Sweatshirt, I like Action Bronson, I like Nicklaus F. So I’m connected to newer things through LA J or through you. But him on a different level, not even MCs or rappers, but just musically.

I’m just kind of like the observer right now, I feel like what’s important still is that we remain ourselves when we’re making music. Because when you look at what’s out there you’ll get caught up in - you’ll think your stuff needs to be like that. I DJ too and I - I rock the parties out, I still have my classics that I throw for parties and keep the thing moving, and when I throw some of the newer stuff on sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work. I have to go to the stuff that was gritty back in the day. People still like the golden era stuff.

No matter who it is you’ve got to have that time to create and be in your own world. And then start to make the music. I always go to Kanye because Kanye is a different dude. He’s always making different stuff no matter what people may think about him. I’m just listening to the damn music. It’s like, man, this is a journey; you’re in a world. That’s what’s important about making music. Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, was a world that we were in. People’s Instinctive Travels was a world... I want to stay fresh, I want to stay - sitting at his house and he’s just throwing loops on me that’s just from different crazy countries and I get inspired to write some murderous raps on it. Or some melodic stuff, if I get caught up where the mainstream is I’ll really be lost.

“They always say, the harder you are the easier you break. You gotta be flexible.” -Slimkid3

How did you feel coming in to work on this project? Because I know you did the Pomo stuff, you did the Broken Sunlight album - how did you feel coming into this album?
Slimkid3
: It’s so crazy because since the last record that I did with the Pharcyde was - we did Testing the Waters and I did Plain Rap, it was the last thing. And I thought when we did Plain Rap - I didn’t sequence that record, I think that should’ve been sequenced different and it could’ve moved differently. Because sequencing can make or a break a record, that’s just it.

Can you explain what sequencing is?
Slimkid3: Sequencing is like making the arrangements proper. As DJ it’s coming up with your set. Song order, it’s so important because people will perceive it wrong, you’ve got to turn it into a journey. So you take Plain Rap and you rearrange some of the songs and it’ll be like, “Whoa, did you hear that shit?” Listening to Plain Rap I thought that I grew as a rapper, I really touched some areas of who I was on that record. As a rapper I was too abstract to me, I just have ADD and I’ll start rhyming and be like, “Where the fuck am I? Fuck it, it’s too late to change it.”

It was very cool making this record. Like I said, this record snuck up on me as far as like, “Damn, this is some good shit.” It really is though! I’ve done so many rhymes, that’s why over here I was trying to remember my rhymes is because I’ve got over like 100 songs. Verses and verses and verses and verses. We got so many songs ourselves from Bizarre Ride stuff.

K-Natural: But I’m going to tell you something, when you do an Uncle DJ Nu record you trust it. Let me tell you, you walk up in there like, “I’m about to murder this shit!” Then when you realize how small you are because - there’s a difference between a beat maker and a producer. Because I didn’t know that I was going to a producer, I was like, “Oh, DJ Nu-Mark. Aight, I like DJ Nu-Mark, I’m about to get some dope beats, I’m going to go in.” I went in there, got the baby bottle shoved in my mouth, and I was like, “This nigga is real.”

[Laughs]

DJ Nu-Mark: He comes in just killing it rhyme-wise and [I’m like], “Can you get that machete for me so I can cut your [vibe] in half?”

K-Natural: He’d be like, “Okay, I see what you’re going at but it’s too many words, let’s take that out.” And then you’d be like -

Slimkid3: “That fly phrase you just had? Just get rid of it.” For real though, you’ll be writing some shit and it’ll be cold and he’ll come up there and crush that dream. Then you kick you rhyme and he likes it and you’re like, “God damn hell yeah!” Because if he doesn’t... [Laughs] He just combs through shit. It’s like your lyrics have lice and he’s just going to [comb noise]. He’s going to comb through that shit and be like, “Oh, that looks better.”

[Left to right] DJ Nu-Mark, Slimkid3, and K-Natural

That’s a good point that he makes. Why do you think it’s crucial for a lot of - I would say a lot of producers today are bedroom producers so they have no concept of what their music is going to sound like in a centralized location. Why do you think it’s important that you’re blending being an active DJ as well as being an active producer?
DJ Nu-Mark: I don’t think it’s essential. You have amazing producers that are running circles around me that are not DJs. I don’t know if Pharrell DJs but he’s a ridiculously dope producer. I come from a drum background so I think that’s what really adds to my production more than being a DJ to tell you the truth; just knowing rhythm.

And I think my job with MCs - I kind of look at MCs like conga players to tell you the truth. James Brown had the same approach with his musicians, everybody’s a drummer in James Brown’s eyes. “What do you got in your hand?” “A guitar.” “No, you got a drum in your hand.” I approach it the same way, like [makes drum noises]. My snare is getting swallowed up - I just look at it as all rhythm.

And the other side of it is I like it when MCs stay on topic. A lot of MCs have a hard time having a cohesive train of thought. That’s actually one of the reasons why I like Kanye. A lot of people say, “Oh, he’s just a producer.” No, he can rhyme. When you listen to Kanye rhyme you want to hear what’s coming next. Because he’s spoon-feeding you it a little by a little and he’s backing up. He’s reading you a bedtime story and everyone likes a bedtime story.

Same thing with Slick Rick, he’s the king of that shit. He’ll just give you a little bit and stay right on topic. He wasn’t talking about talking about a bar fight and then fucking a hoe next. He was like, “Okay, we can talk about this bar fight all the way through.” I have to be that guy, I’m going to have a plaque made that says, “Truth over the studio,” because you can’t lie when you get in the studio - not at my crib.

[Left to right] K-Natural, Slimkid3, DJ Nu-Mark, Fatlip

Do you want to talk about the features?
DJ Nu-Mark: This album, the Slimkid3 and DJ-Nu Mark album features Diamond D, J-Live, Del from Hieroglyphics, Murs from Living Legends -

That track is getting a lot of attention.
DJ Nu-Mark: And Darondo - rest in peace, I believe that was one of the last sessions, if not the last session, before he passed away. He’s a Bay Area legend -

Not to cut you off, can you talk about how that session went down?
DJ Nu-Mark: Man, I was trying to track Darondo down - I had already sampled the song I wanted to get him in on the song to thicken up the hook and do ad-libs with Tre and I was a little nervous about what he thought of the song because it’s essentially his. He came in - I paid for a train ticket for him to come in, I was in Oakland and he was just a little bit out of Oakland. We had a recording studio there that he was comfortable working at.

He came in and he was like, “I didn’t know you were going to be filming, I would’ve wore my white on white outfit!” He likes to dress pimpy and clean and I felt bad. Tre wasn’t in the session, I think he was in Portland or on tour, one of the two. And he heard Tre and he’s like, “Man, this is good man!” Revitalized his song from the early '70s. I think that, to me, was one of the more rewarding parts of that album process for this.

Slimkid3: That makes me happy when you do something on someone’s old music and they appreciate it like that. I don’t know it just makes me feel good, that we did a good job with his work. He sang on it! Damn, he’s singing on it!

I like the “I Know, Didn’t I” . That is just a monster. As far as Pharcyde is concerned we were known to have videos that were off the chain. And this video made me feel good about consistency, so it’s all good steps, man. Shoot man I release resistance to all that’s the goodness that happens to this record. My intention is just for everyone to enjoy their lives.

It’s like you’re taking off layers just to get to the good stuff. So I hope this record really makes people feel good, feel happy, and feel inspired.

Earlier you guys were talking about the nostalgia of releasing this album with DV, who you already have a relationship with. A couple of weeks ago we covered the Adrian Younge and Souls of Mischief show at the Mayan. A lot of people were excited by it but there was also this feeling of - an in-between feeling because you and Lip were missing. How do you feel about them performing under the name as well as you guys performing under the Bizarre Ride name simultaneously?
Slimkid3:
It’s what we got to do. It’s what we’re doing -we’re making a living, that’s one thing. On the Bizarre Ride side of things, we’re making new music and we just got into a place where we’re having fun about making music. That same energy that where our Bizarre Ride album was made is where we found, currently - we’re having so much fun creating that.

The other two guys, they’ve been working very hard. I just, man, I don’t even know how to talk about this because it’s so stupid. This is what I think, we’re fighting each other to have control over who’s going to say, “Oh, shit. Oh, shit.” This is fucking dumb; to me. I really don’t know what the fuck to say about it. I just know we’re doing - it’s so terrible, it brings up so many emotions.

DJ Nu-Mark: But no one can ever take away what you all did.

Slimkid3: Right, so my thing is if we get out of our own way then people can have what the fuck they want. We’re having fun over here, we’re jolly as a mother fucker. So when they are ready to just release the resistance to what the universe is doing to them - which is what we’re supposed to be doing, you can’t erase history, this is who we are. And now we’re being fought for who we are? That’s just retarded.

But the universe is like water; it’s going to get to the fans. If the fans want to see Slimkid3 and Fat Lip guess what? A way is going to be made. Me and Fat Lip, we’re cool, we don’t always get along, almost at the fuck all. But we do this and we work with the parts that we can work with. And like I said, once we get out of our own way, myself included, it’s about the Pharcyde, it’s about the music. It’s not about what the fuck you think you are. This is bullshit, come on guys, come on back. Because the formula that made this birthday cake that people are loving to eat on, they can’t eat on it until you guys show up.

Currently we’re making cookies. And they damn tasty. Currently we’re doing the Slimkid3 and DJ Nu-Mark pies and it’s damn tasty. I don’t have time to wait for anybody, that’s not what life is about. It must suck as a fan to go to a show and be like, “Damn, but we know those other niggas are around.”

They always say, the harder you are the easier you break. You gotta be flexible.

DJ Nu-Mark: Bruce Lee, “Be like water baby.”

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Keep up with DJ Nu-Mark: UncleNu.com, Twitter @DJNUMARK, Facebook, Soundcloud, and Instagram @djnumark808.

Follow Slimkid3: Facebook, Twitter @slimkid3, and Instagram @slimkid3.

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