Brian Coleman Hip-hop author Brian Coleman is back with a new book breaking down the creation of some of our favorite hip-hop classics. “Check the Techique”, the follow up to “Rakim Told Me”, goes deep into the mind state of legends such as Beastie Boys, Luke, Digital Underground, X-Clan, and many more. This publication serves as a must for all hip-hop enthusiasts and a bible to the next generation seeking direction.
interview by Will Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk to me about the book “Check the Technique”? Brian Coleman: “Check the Technique” is a big ass book. It is over 500 pages and 36 chapters. I think I counted right over 75 interviews. It’s basically liner notes. I’m a jazz fan and someone who’s promoted jazz for a long time. I’ve always known all about linear notes and how they are important to jazz. It always occurred to me it was kind of bizarre that hip hop albums never had linear notes. It was a non-existent thing; some unwritten rule. That’s really what’s it’s all about, getting in touch with the artist and really going over their back story. Kind of what they went through at the beginning of their career as artist. How these albums came about really down to the nuts and bolts. Trying to get behind a lot of the stories that are usually about records. Not really dissecting the records in a critical or academic way, but trying to let the artist talk about the record. I don’t care what a critic says about the records. I care about the artist says.
WHO?MAG: What was your inspiration and how long did it take you compile all these interviews and information? Brian Coleman: Well my inspiration was the artists and the lack of this information out there in the world. That was a big inspiration that this was purely sh*t I wanted to know on the selfish side. (laughs) I’ve obviously written for a lot of places over the year that has allowed to talk to a lot of these people. When I would ask them a whole bunch of questions on the side about different stuff, same as you do with all the great interviews you do, you always end up with a ton of extra information. This is my way of getting all that out. Getting all my transcriptions letting them loose. Obviously with this one “Check the Technique” I did a bunch of extra work. Really kind of polishing a lot of the chapters and adding a ton of different stuff. All the 90’s chapters are brand new. Those have never been published before and a couple of the “Rakim told Me” chapters are in there too because they had really never been distributed. I had very spotty distribution. Spotty is a very kind way to describe it. It got out there. It was never in book stores. It was always more in record stores than book stores. This is the first time any of this stuff has really gotten out to world at large. It’s basically the culmination of 10, 12 years of work of me asking hip hop legends very nerdy questions ,their lives, and as them as artists.
WHO?MAG: Which were the ones you most enjoyed? Brian Coleman: That’s a tough one. I enjoyed them all. I wouldn’t put a record in my book that I didn’t love personally. In a way they are all my favorites. But there are certain, whether it was at the time or in retrospect, like the X Clan chapter considering Professor X’s passing last year. That’s very important to me. There are seminal records like Wu Tang Clan and Public Enemy that you got to talk about. You can’t really talk about hip hop without talking about them. Some were just kind of fun like 2 Live Crew. I loved talking to Mr. Mixx and Luke. That one to me was a lot of fun because of any group in hip hop, they’ve been overlooked. Not that they were a serious group necessarily, but even groups that have a lot of fun are serious about what they do. Luke as an entrepreneur and an innovator as an independent record label you know was absolutely unprecedented. Master P couldn’t have done what he did without Luke.
WHO?MAG: Were there any artists that were difficult to get in touch for the book? Brian Coleman: Yeah, you know of anybody hip hop dudes aren’t the easiest guys to track done? (laughs) Ones who were the difficult ones to track down, they’re not in the book yet. They all had levels of difficulty to get them, but whenever I get them on the phone, it’s always all good. I think artists really like talking about these records. They like remembering back to their earlier albums. I think when you’ve been in the game that long, you kind of loose that. You forget how fun it is to make records sometimes. A lot of these records were a hell of a lot of fun to make. They were a struggle to make, but they were a lot of fun; especially looking back.
WHO?MAG: My favorite chapters were Beastie Boys, Digital Underground, and Cypress Hill. Brian Coleman: Nice! Digital Underground, I’ve always loved those guys. There’s another perfect example of a group that always had a lot of fun and a lot of people don’t really take that seriously. Shock G is a musical genius. He’s really a one man band. If he could’ve cloned himself, he would’ve been all upset. Money B is a real interesting guy too. I’m glad you really liked those. The Beastie Boys, you look at the record and everybody’s looked inside of the “Check your Head” and all the picture and probably fantasized their versions of how that record was made. Because it is such a unique record, for me at least. I always wanted to know more about that record. They were kind of surprised I didn’t want to talk to them about Paul’s Boutique and I was like, “to be honest, I would have loved to talk to you about License to Ill”, but we settled on “Check Your Head”. They’re a really unique group. I can tell I really talked to them about it. I haven’t really thought about it too much, except for Wycelf, what groups have really done it all. They even DJed on their own sh*t. They’re emcees, they play instruments, they’re producers, engineers. It’s a pretty impressive achievement. People love that record, but they don’t realize what went into that record. Also what they went through. They were like “We were invisible to our record label. They didn’t even think we were going to put another record out. All of us show up with this f*cked up crazy record. They were like “Oh yeah! The Beastie Boys.” Most of those guys are really cool to talk to. DJ Muggs is a real hardcore fan still. B Real is a big fan also. But Muggs has the interesting situation from being from NY and all of a sudden to be transplanted in LA. He hated the sh*t that was going on and what they were playing in LA. He was like “What the f*ck is this disco?” That was his reaction. That was his way of bringing the East Coast to the West Coast. That show’s through the way that record sounds.
WHO?MAG: Anybody you’ve tried to get that you haven’t had any luck with? Brian Coleman: I’m always on the hunt. I’ve got people locked in for the next one. I’ve already got my Stetsasonic chapter done. I’ve got my Ice Cube chapter done. I saw you talked Ice Cube a little while ago. He was amazing to talk to. He seemed to like what the book was about. I sent him a rough draft of the book. I got to stop. I got to leave some surprises. The next one I do will be just as good, if not better than “Check the Technique”. I’ve already got more than half the book done.
WHO?MAG: I read you tried to get Dr. Dre and Jazzy Jeff for the first book but no luck? Brian Coleman: Dr. Dre doesn’t really do too many interviews. To be honest with you, my general philosophy is not just Dre, but if an artist surrounds himself with that many handlers and publicists. I don’t like the rock star sh*t. I want to be able to talk to people as people, not have to kiss ass with all their different handlers and sh*t. It’s always a shame to me when I have really cool interviews with people like Cube who are not that really easy to get to, but once you get to them, it’s awesome! I think that’s a shame and it’s not their fault. They surround themselves with people who try to keep journalists away from them. If they’re not writing about them for Rolling Stone or some huge magazine, I generally don’t jump through that many hoops. I will stop at a certain point if a person is that hard to get to.