DJ Muggs GZA and DJ Muggs “Grandmasters” interview Pt #1 Wu-Tang’s GZA and former Cypress Hill member DJ Muggs have teamed up together to bring us the heated new street album “Grandmasters.” DJ Muggs has presented a heavy contribution to the hip-hop world. Being a part of Cypress Hill, House of Pain, and 7A3, Muggs has also worked beside a countless array of hip-hop’s biggest heavyweights. Now with his Soul Assassins releases and his new Mash-Ups radio show becoming household regulars, check out how Muggs is ready to take over the hip-hop industry once again! Also read on as we bring you the exclusive full interview done by Urban America’s Will Hernandez found only at WHO?MAG. Thanks to Will Hernandez & Urban America Magazine.
Interview by Rob Schwartz
WHO?MAG: Since winning the West Coast D.M.C championship back in ’89, what do you see is the biggest change with DJ’s from then until now? DJ MUGGS: Ahh man! They took it to a whole other level. I mean just as far as a turntablist is concerned, it’s like looking at basketball star in the 60’s and compare them to Michael Jordan, you know what I’m saying? And the whole mixtape game, how they came and took that to a whole other level. Like DJ’s are very influential now in getting artist deals with the labels now. They are very important now. Just the way they can exposure their artist to the streets now. DJ’s were very important for a while. Then it got away from them for a little while, but then all of a sudden, there is something about the DJ again.
WHO?MAG: What do you feel was the most positive turning point in your career? DJ MUGGS: Probably the first Cypress Album coming out. The success of that record enabled me to go ahead and do what I wanted to do and open up a lot of doors for me and make me able to do anything I wanted to do. My career was limitless. Anyone I wanted to get in contact with or to work with was right there for me.
WHO?MAG: What was the background for the idea of the “Grandmasters” cd? DJ MUGGS: Gza and I have worked together a few times. We did this song together in ’97 for the first Souls Assassins record. We then did another song in 2000 then 2001 and people in my camp told me that we work well together. You guys should do a record. Some people in his camp were telling him the same thing. Finally I got this label situation through Fontana Universal and I when I was in New York, I told Gza that I got these beats. Lets do this record. I had some time in my schedule, he had some time in his schedule. He took the tracks and wrote the album in eight days.
WHO?MAG: What in particular do you feel this album will accomplish for GZA and yourself? DJ MUGGS: It’s a straight art project for us. In other words, in the
state of hip-hop and what’s going on and the influence from big business, we just wanted to make a record straight for the heads. From a time and a place where we like a real basement record. Where it’s real grimy with no hooks. We knew weren’t going to get any video play or mainstream radio airplay. But we just wanted to make a record that’s just banging beats and bombs just to let people know it’s always about the art and not about the money. Do something different and put your bones on the line. That’s what original hip-hop was about. It was about “fuck you” and “fuck hip-hop.” Fuck everybody that’s acting like anybody, looking like anybody, being like anybody. It was against the grain. It was to the left. That’s what this record is about. It is alternative to rap because it is alternative to everything that is out there right now. It’s a real brave record right now making it in the climate right now to say fuck the music business.
WHO?MAG: What would be your top five artists you would like to hear over a Muggs track? DJ MUGGS: At this point, lets do some Rakim, lets do Young Jeezy, lets do Jay-Z, let’s do Ice Cube, and lets do Atmosphere.
WHO?MAG: What signifies a DJ Muggs track from other producers? DJ MUGGS: I don’t really know. What I do is that my music is real
nighttime music. Real dark alley, nighttime, moody music. So picture a dark night with a lot of fog where it’s real menacing and it’s real dark. That’s what comes out of me. I just let it flow like that. Don’t go out of my way to make a specific kind of record for a specific genre or if radio is going to play it. What radio hits I had, radio came to me. I never came to radio. If you listen to my songs, they are not traditional radio songs.
WHO?MAG: You experimented with trip-hop and rock in the past. What do you see as the next plateau for hip-hop? DJ MUGGS: Just brothers being inventive. Just brothers just doing
different things. I feel us doing this record right now is really just
putting it all on the line. When I mess with rock and trip-hop, it’s just that I am an artist. I get tired of painting the same painting every time I sit down to paint. I like to sit down and experiment different things like with sounds and with styles. When I first started doing rock, I always respected a brother like Rick Rubin where he can do some of the greatest hip-hop records, step outside of the game, and do some great rock albums. I don’t want to limit myself to be a one-dimensional producer. I’m going to try different things, different sounds, and different styles.
WHO?MAG: How does an upcoming producer go about getting recognized in the music industry? DJ MUGGS: Grind and making beats. Sending your beats out and do it for free at first. Anything to get on. Be original. Don’t follow the trends. Now everybody is trying to find a soul record and speed it up. It’s okay to bite to learn, but then you have to take that and put yourself into it.
WHO?MAG: Can we expect another Cypress Hill album in the future? DJ MUGGS: The greatest hits album will be out December 20th. Cypress Hill album in the future, I can’t even comment on that now. It’s the furthest thing from my mind right now, being that it takes three years to make a record, promote the record, touring the record, and I am just not dedicating that three years again. I dedicated 19 years to Cypress Hill since 1986, and at this point I am really concentrating on my label, Self Scientific, Gza & Muggs album, my new artist names Mitchie Slick, and our new Soul Assasins album coming out in August. That’s our main focus.
WHO?MAG: What’s next for DJ Muggs? DJ MUGGS: I have a radio show out called Mash Up Radio that is in 9 cities and it’s on Shade 45 on Sirius Satellite on Mondays. Plus we have our S.A. Studios, which is our art department with Mr. Cartoon. As a collective force in the west coast, we have a lot of things going on outside of music. This is just one of our facets of our crew which isn’t a traditional crew with just rappers and producers. We also have the Soul Assassins DVD coming out soon. Also Alchemist, Cartoon, a group called Expensive Taste with Paul Wall and Travis Barker. DJ Warrior does all of our mixtapes and does all of our stuff on the streets. We’re going to have a Warrior album out by the end of the summer. This will be his first retail release. There is a lot of getting together here to create a movement. We are pulling all of our talents and resources together and moving on cats. That’s the problem with LA is that when cats make it, they huddle up in the corner and keep it to themselves. There is enough money out there for all of us . There is trillion of dollars out there for all of us. But some people will be willing to cut your throat now for a grand now than opposed to over the next year you can be making a grand a month.
EXLCUSIVE URBAN AMERICA INTERVIEW BY WILL HERNANDEZ!!!
A portion of the interview below with DJ Muggs will be running in the latest edition of Urban America Newspaper; however, only at WHO?MAG will you find the full version. Read below…
WILL: Talk to me about your new album Grandmasters? DJ MUGGS: Me and GZA have been kicking it back and forth since around 1997. We worked on a collaboration together for the Soul Assassins. The song was banging. We did a video for it. I did the next Soul Assassins record and I reached out to GZA again. We did a song called Till The Fat Lady Sings it ended up being the first single off that record. We just had a good chemistry man; just coming in the lab: my style his lyrics it just fits for some reason. I had some time off. I started a label with Chase Infinite and DJ Khalel called Angeles records. I was in New York and GZA came by the hotel. I played him a bunch of music and said “We need to do an album together homie!” I gave like 15 beats and he wrote for like 2 months. Then came to LA and we banged the record out in 8 days.
WILL: Why did you decide to start the label Angeles records? DJ MUGGS: I wanted to put out the music I wanted to put out. I had gone to these major labels. Corny ass A&R’s people with no vision, no musical taste. Thinking they should tell how to make my art, create my art. I never made mainstream art. I just got to do what I like to do. I built an international fan base over the past 15 years. I felt LA is lacking a movement. All you have is the big boys out here. All you have is Aftermath and after that there are no other movements in LA. We figured we have a lot of fucking talent here. Let’s work and mash on these muthafuckers.
WILL: For those that don’t know. How did you get involved with the group 7A3? DJ MUGGS: I met Brett (one of the members of 7A3) through a friend named Eli. I was doing a party out in East LA. 7A3 had a song called 7A3 Will Rock You on Macola records. They were the only people we knew that had a record out. I asked them if they wanted to come out and play. Cypress [Hill] was playing, Mellow Man Ace this is like 1987. 7A3 came down, but their DJ didn’t. So I DJ’d; they were like “Yo! we’re about to do some shows with Ice T.” I did a couple of shows for them. Brett was like “You want to be the DJ” and I was like “Yeah”. A month later we did a song for the Colors soundtrack and then we did the album. Working with 7A3 was my education into the music business. I saw how they do an album. I’ve seen how records were made. I’ve seen how studios work. I’ve seen how promotions work. How videos were done. What concepts were?; What logos were? Through that experience; so when it came time to work with Cypress. It showed me how to polish Cypress and present them. Our look, style, image everything was ready to go; due to the experience with 7A3.
WILL: How did you guys get your deal with Ruffhouse records and how were the early days at the label? DJ MUGGS: Joe “The Butcher” produced the first 7A3 album. When I was doing the Cypress Hill stuff I kept sending it to Joe. When I finally did the song called Real Estate which was the first demo we did that actually sounded like a record. We ended up signing with Ruffhouse for our first deal for $65,000. The early days were great.
Because people really focused on the streets and organic marketing; Guerrilla marketing they had a real street team that they paid for. Then they had the street team which were kids that worked for free. They really focused on college and the underground. Columbia never knew how to facilitate the streets. They depended on the traditional ways of marketing and promoting records.
WILL: How did you help Mellow Man Ace get his first record deal? DJ MUGGS: I got Mellow Man his deal actually. Because I was at Delicious Vinyl doing the song for the Colors soundtrack; the song Mad Mad World. I used to tell Mellow “Come with me everywhere. You need to meet people” He went there with me and he rapped. But Mellow didn’t rap in Spanish. Only Sen Dog rapped in Spanish. I lied to them and told them he rapped in Spanish. I looked as his face and saw dollar signs in his face. Mellow went home that night and had his mom help him write some rhymes. He came to my house and we did the demo. Then I brought him over there and the rest is history.
WILL: Who were some of your influences as a producer and what equipment do you use for production? DJ MUGGS: Rick Rubin, EPMD, The Bomb Squad, Ced Gee from Ultra Magnetic MC’s. Those were the cats that I loved their beats and I wanted to make beats like them when I was young. Equipment wise I use SP1200, MPC3000 and records. That’s about it.
WILL: Talk to me about your mash up projects? DJ MUGGS: We’ve always done rock in hip hop around here. The early hip hop that inspired me was Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J all that was rock & roll inspired hip hop. Along the way fools started sampling funk, jazz, and they forgot that hip hop was inspired by rock & roll. You know what I mean? We’ve always tapped into that world. People pushed me to do mix shows and I’m like “I don’t want to do a regular hip hop mix show.” There’s a bunch of them already. They do it dope. But we’ll do dope also. I wanted it to come out with a different twist. So let’s do mash up radio. Mash is a slang word from LA; when you mash on fools or go in your car mashing on the block. We’ll do 90 percent of the original mixes here. Everything is mixed with all of the hip hop sensibilities. To where we make mixes that hip hop heads will like them. It’s the culture now. Kids grow up with NWA in one ear and then they skip to the next CD and its Rage Against The Machine. It’s music for the new generation.
WILL: How did the Soul Assassins crew come together and the compilations? DJ MUGGS: We had Cypress Hill the rap part of the crew. My crew extends from all kinds of artists. It was an extended family: Mister Cartoon, Alchemist, Everlast they’re all part of the Soul Assassins. I got homeboys that own car shops, restaurants, etc. It’s a bunch of artists; grown men who are in a business that are helping each others economy grow. It’s simple: I’ve had directors that I’ve let them do their first video. They went and blew up did commercials and movies. But never reach out like “Muggs come do some music for this. Let me help you and come back extend my hand to you.” I got a little bugged out and I said “I’m tired of blowing muthafuckers up and nothings coming about.” I’m blowing my own people up; so I focused all my energy and every time I had a job. I called my homeboy Esteban to take the pictures for it. Cartoon to the album covers. We keep our economy flowing. It goes back and forth. Music is a real small part of what the Soul Assassins do. Now I want to blow it up on a world wide base. Let’s do the musical side of it. I didn’t want to go sell these beats to different rappers. Because I believe in ownership; I could somebody a beat for their album and that’s great. But I wanted to own it and see the project through from beginning to end. I’ve always been a strong believer of owning your own projects. I’ve had a few big name producers come up to me and say “I like how you do your shit. Because I sell beats dog and I don’t own or got nothing. I wish I would’ve done my shit like you.” I took keen to that early. I reached out to everybody who I dreamed about working with at that time. I reached out and everybody came through.
WILL: I remember you were one of the first producers to use instrumental intermissions between songs. What inspired you to go that route and how is your production process? DJ MUGGS: I was inspired by Public Enemy. If you listen to PE you notice their records were seamless nonstop. They had the beats with the samples on top of them. I just think they’re good seg ways because sometimes two songs won’t go together good. So I use instrumental pieces so they make sense. From song to song it flows. I try to create a mood sort of like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I like to put my records together like they are seamless.
I don’t really have one way. I sometimes start with drums; sometimes with a sample. Sometimes I just sit there and listen to records. Find a little piece and throw it off a bit. So many different ways; sometimes I have musicians come in and play a piano lines for me. I have ideas in my head. It could start any different way at anytime really. I just start layering sounds on top of each other.
WILL: In 2003 you released Dust which is an instrumental album. How did that project come about? DJ MUGGS: Me man I get bored. I need new challenges and experiences. Dust is going to be an experimental record. It was record of the year in England. They didn’t even promote it here in the States. I was huge in Europe. I just took a break for six months and worked on that record and chilled. Then I got back to working on hip hop records. The song Gone For Good feat. Everlast ended up being used for a perfume commercial in France.
For more info on DJ Muggs go to:
www.djmuggs.com & www.angelesrecords.com