DJ Fresh is a DJ and producer who makes more rounds than his turntables.
His original home of Baltimore, Maryland is just one of the many places DJ Fresh has called Home. He moved from B-More when he was nine years old, landing him in the South Bay city of San Jose. It was at this time in his life, the nine year-old “fresh” kid decided to add the DJ to his name, and committed himself to his music.
DJ Fresh is now a veteran producer and DJ, who’s name rings bells- just as his beats rattle trunks. His resume boasts projects and performances with Hip-Hop heavy weights such as Nas, Common, and Raekwon. And his travels have lead him to the East coast, the West coast, and now, he is poised to go on an international tour with Lil Kim.
But before he made that move to embark on his next journey, I caught up with DJ Fresh, as the workaholic was poised to record yet another track for the upcoming Tonite Show project. He and rapper San Quinn couldn’t spare a minute to pause the track as they were grinding away on the next track for the upcoming DJ Fresh album.
DJ Fresh’s “Tonite Show” album series can been seen via advertisements floating in the bay area streets, and can be heard rattling trunks in the Bay Area and beyond. He has teamed up with a number of talented producers, and formed the group, “The Whole Shabang”. The Whole Shabang production team works with the top Bay Area artists, such as J- Stalin, D-Lo. , and Messy Marv; amongst others. To get a taste of what the combination of talented producers and top artists sounds like, here is a three piece special:
A new track titled “I Am” by an up and coming artist, Young Gully
“How many different drum patterns do you think there are?”, A talented producer and good friend, Jamon Dru of “The Whole Shabang” production team once asked me; I still don’t have an answer…
Jamon Dru isn’t the person you’d find burning incense, studying books on Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, and playing a Congo while ironing his Kente cloth. Actually, your more likely to catch him producing tracks for the Bay Area’s top artist. He has produced tracks for D. Lo, Beeda Weeda, and many others; recently he composed the beat for the Messy Marv track “7 seconds flat“. And even though Jamon Dru makes beats for West Coast gangsta rap, I’d bet my favorite dashiki, that even he would agree: no matter how many different drum patterns there are, they all tell a story- a story of the African Diaspora.
On the other side of the African Diaspora is talented artist and good friend, Messiah Ramkissoon of “Royal Alliance Music Group”. The Trinidadian artist, with the Brooklyn background and Howard University education, is a true word smith. And it shows in his craft. The highlight of his resume: 3-time Apollo winner. But this isn’t about the accolades, this is about the African Diaspora connecting through one drum. Messiah recently did a song which was crowned the winner of the Sudanese’s government’s political action competition in effort to get citizens to participate in voting in the first Democratic election in 24 years.
Messiah worked with Cheb YaCine , Al-SadProxy, Langa and video producer Nas Jota, as emcees from the states to Sudan came together for this political track titled B Sotoka (With Your Vote).
The intercontinental connection between artist within the African Diaspora is nothing new. The collaborative efforts between the Washingtonian emcee with Nigerian lineage we know as Wale, and the Somalian spitter they call K’naan has been a breath of fresh air. Wale and K’naan have done shows together, and the duo also have two collaborative songs, ” TV on The Radio” and “Um Ricka“, both songs are more than worth the listen.
Speaking of “worth the listen”, a small portion of the world is awaiting the May 18th release of the “Distant Relatives” project by Queens, NY artist Nasir “Nas” Jones, and one of the heirs to the Marley throne out of Trenchtown, Damian Marley. The highly anticipated Nas and Damien Marley album are both examples of the musical connection taking place in the African Diaspora in current popular music. Here is a dope interview by Hard Knock TV on the “Distant Relatives” project.
I listened to the tracks by Messiah, K’Naan, J-Stalin, and Damian Marley over and over, trying to answer the initial question posed to me Jamon Dru. I figured four different artists from different parts of the world would have different sounding drums. That thought didn’t last too long… not only do the drums sound alike, but the subject matter is identical : guns, drugs, jail, war, capitalism, AIDS, and the concept of “race” are just a few things that are ever-present in the African Diaspora.
In the end, Jamon Dru’s question was probably a joke or a riddle… there is infinite number of possible drum patterns… but there is no doubt that they all tell 1 story: the story of the African diaspora.
Money over Bullshit was the name of the song. I couldn’t remember it for the life of me. I searched the whole Nas catalog looking for this quote:
“Seen niggas live-laugh-party- and die in that very same corner.”
It had been stuck in my head all of last semester.
The liquor store was right there. The weedman’s house was right there. The Chinese takeout spot was right there! And all three could be delivered for a nominal fee….
…This was life. Nothing more than a numb cycle full of mediocre grades, mindless social networking, and taking the “L” in every sense of the word.
I sat in a house one block away from the gymnasim. The same gymnasium where the class of 2010 was walking the stage. I followed on twitter as they updated constantly. And when my kinfolk asked me if I was going to the graduation… I don’t remember my exact answer, but I can tell you this:
I ended up playing NBA 2K10 on Playstation 3…again….and again…and again.
The highlight of my day was the three games I played. All of them went into overtime. I lost all three. I took the “L”.
“Overtime” must have been the word of the day. It made sense: everyone in the house would be serving at least one semester extra at this fine institution. We all had different feelings as to what this meant. Some saw it as an extension on time to manifest their “master plan”. A couple people believed that 4 1/2 to 5 years is becoming the norm due to financial situations, and still, others such as myself saw it as another societal obstacle to keep me away from the things that truly matter: health, family, and pursuit of personal fulfillment.
Whatever the outlook, we were all coming from the same position: not the position of 2nd year seniors, but the position of that very same corner… You know what corner I’m talking about… the corner where the liquor store is right there. The weedman’s house is right there. The Chinese takeout spot is right there! And all three can be delivered for a nominal fee….
We were living- laughing- and partying in that very same corner. Dying? naw, we were still young, healthy, and very much alive physically. But in a sense, a part of us was dead: that dream of getting off of this “corner” called college on schedule was dead.
We spent time, energy, and good money on bullshit. We used the five cent black plastic bags from the corner store to dump our blunt guts, we recorded tracks for a mixtape that was set to drop on the 4th of Nebuary, and we ate takeout… often. This was us living, laughing, and partying. It was a seemingly fast lifestyle, although we never went anywhere. And because of this, the “death” came slow.
Each of us slowly realized, it sucks that we won’t graduate with the people we came into college with. We battled the mixed emotions of being happy for our “classmates”, but all the while, mad at ourselves.
This summer will cause us to leave that same corner, just to return in the fall.
A part of me wants to ask Nas: is it possible for an individual to live, laugh, and party in the same corner without dying? Then again, I don’t want to know: I just want to get away from that same corner. After all, its money over bullshit. And college (that same corner) costs too much.
3:34 am.My head is currently nodding in affirmation as I stare at my speakers. The lyrics were like sketch flip books: the animations ran through my imigaintion and I was engulfed…
Recently, I picked up the book ” The Story Factor” by Annette Simmons. I perused the first 10 pages of the book, and took note on Simmons’ method of influence. The author say, lectures, and long winded speeches do nothing for most people, while a good story will pull most listeners to find the answers themselves, thus engaging and captivating the audience:
“We spend too much time talking to a person’s rational brain and we neglect their emotional brain…”.
It wasn’t the concept that blew my barn doors open and got me to thinking; it was the real life application.
For instance, If I tell you, “don’t go down a dark street- it’s not safe.”, you might listen to me- but you will not be moved. But if I tell you, “about three weeks ago a kid that looks just like you was abducted on that dark street…”. I have tapped into your emotions, and now you have not only listened, but you have been moved. Even more so, I have not advised you to do anything, instead, I have given you enough information to make your own life decisions.
This is a relatively simple concept. We see it all the time in society. But the one place this concept is most readily seen in my life-isn’t seen at all:It’s heard.
Hip-hop has expanded my vocabulary, has given me rhythmic inclination ( I can dance… on beat), and now I realize, Hip-hop has given me some of the greatest examples of telling stories. Stories that influence, stories that move, stories that cause you to stare at the speaker and nod in affirmation as if the emcee was speaking to you… and these are just a few:
First off, if you know nothing about storytelling in hip-hop ,you need not go further than a man by the name of Slick Rick “the Ruler”. His long list of classic albums include hits like “Mona Lisa” and “Young World”, but the story that reigns supreme in hip-hop, is a track by the famed eye-patch sporting-British Emcee called, “Children’s story“.
On the heels of Slick Rick’s first mention, it is only right to chase that drink with a second helping of Slick Rick. This time, it’s via a collaboration with the ATLien duo, known as Outkast on the track “The art of Story Telling“. Outkast f. Slick Rick.
Two of the top rappers in the game, Nas and Jay- Z also have a couple of stories that standout to me as lyrical illustrations of real life situations.
while Nas’ “Rewind” is like watching a VHS backwards- right before you take it back to Blockbuster…
On the West coast…there are two or three tracks that are stories that I hold near and dear…
first is the track”Northern California” by San Quinn, which is a story about how the Bay Area came to its current position within the Rap game.
…and then there is a story by East Oakland’s own Yukmouth (1/2 of the Luniz- who made the song “I got 5 on it”), the track is titled ” City of Dope” and gives an explicit account of the history of the streets of East Oakland as seen through a young man’s eyes, while coming of age in the crack-cocaine era.
Speaking of coming of age, the song “Southside” by Scarface, was one of my favorite tracks growing up. In my teen years, you couldn’t imagine how often I used the line: “spent my day right off of (28th) broke and disgusted/ not a dollar to buy food/ but i’m smoking…so fuck it.”… ( I’d change the block Scarface references to the block we hung out on.)
Speaking of smoking, and hanging out with the boys, and a classic lines in story rhymes… I give you Christopher Wallace’s contribution: “Call my niggas on the cell/ bring some weed, I’ve got a story to tell”.
I noticed… many of my the story songs take a dark tone; they speak about death and portrayal, they speak of crime and sin. And I couldn’t end on that note…So, before this train of thought pulls into the station, I’d like to play one uplifting story: “Today was a Good Day”- Ice Cube.
alright, that’s the end of the story hour for now…yall go make like Ice Cube and have a good day… oh, and keep this in mind:
…Let us lead a life so that we have a story to tell at the end, a story that moves people. a story that influences people. and not just another story that people listen to…
As the month of February comes to a close…. I thought it would be fitting to have four tracks for the 4 weeks that are Black History month…I could have chosen a number of tracks…but these are the 4 tracks that have influenced me the most this month.
Cee-Lo “White Boy’s Plan”
Nas “Can’t Stop Us Now”
Nas and Damien Marley “As We Enter”
and as we march into the month of March…. this is the message we need to hear: ” they said my future was dark…look at me now….I’m beaming…”-Lupe
Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z recently came together to make yet another classic Hip-Hop track titled “I wanna Rock” (remix). Jay-Z’s entire verse is an ode to some of the influences in the rap game. It got me to thinking: what are other songs that are Ode’s to Hip-Hop/ music that I have to make note of….here’s the list:
(**there are two or three songs that the lovely people at youtube.com decided to make “Embedding disabled by request”…therefore you might have to click the link and watch them on youtube instead of this blog- thanks capitalism, you’ve done wonders for Hip-Hop)
To kick things off, I’d like to call on Erykah Badu, who is arguably the nicest female Emcee in history, but happens to be defined as an R&B/ neo-soul artist. I love this video, as it depicts Hip-Hop’s entire time line. From the block with donkey ropes and Addidas to the current world of corporate Hip-Hop, where white audiences reign supreme. The video is full of cameos: MC Lyte, Kool Herc, Chuck D, Common, and the legendary b-boy breaker Crazy Legs…check 1-2-1-2..check it out.
And while we’re on the topic of Badu, you gotta throw this one in there Erykah Badu’s “The Healer”…just because she dedicates it to J. Dilla, the late great producer…and she says “Hip-Hop…its bigger than the government.” And it is.
This next 1, might have flown under a couple of folks radars…but this is special to me: I used to this on repeat when I was about 10 or 11 years old…and at that time, you had to listen to the whole song, and rewind the tape in order to listen to it agian.
R.I.P. Freeky Tah
Eric Sermon’s “Just Like Music” This is a refreshing track, made by a legendary emcee and is a great example of the power of sample; using the legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye’s vocals.
R.I.P. Marvin Gaye
Afrika Bambaataa’s track…it’s a prerequisite to breing a hip-hop head… you don’t know this. Hip-Hop Don’t know you!
Dead Prez’s Hip-Hop…this is the power of Hip-Hop in terms of revolt against media control. This is motivation music; when this song comes on in my headphones, I have to hold myself back from doing push-ups…cause doing push-ups on the metro train is a little too gangsta for the majority of society.
Speaking of gangsta, you can’t more gangsta than NWA.The group’s resurgence in the late 90’s brought about this track…it wasn’t an ode to hip-hop as much it was “chin-check” of the so-called gangsta rappers of the day. Just a lil something to say “Hello”, and let the word know who started this Gansta shit: West side!!!
R.I.P. Easy- E.
Keeping it in the hood… One of my favorite’s and probably one of the most underated tracks in the history of Ode’s to Hip-Hop, not only was this song slept on by many, but I even slept on the video was looked over too! with appearances from Bun-B, Devin the Dude, and Scarface; Cleveland artist Ray Cash’s “Bumpin my Music” had to make the list…
Since we’re in the South now, we have to mention Outkast. They are the greatest Hip-Hop duo in the history of mankind. period. And with their artistry combined with Slick Rick’s aura, the song “art of story telling” is an ode to Hip-Hop’s basic purpose… a way for people without a voice to rhythmically tell their own story.
With the amount of life the last artists have put into the game, its hard to imagine Hip-Hop ever needing a tombstone…But Queens emcee Nasir Jones begged to differ. Nas’ “Hip-Hop is Dead” wasn’t an ode to Hip-Hop, it was more of an obituary… But it has it’s place on the list, for: if you love something, you should forever be critical of it.
Seemingly in response to Nas’ claim that Hip-Hop had met its death date, a slew of young artist popped up with lyrical insight and a breath of new life into Hip-Hop. One of the most notable new artist on the scene is kid from Chicago by the name of Lupe. This track is not only a dedication to slain rapper from New Orleans, Soldier Slim, but a dedication to many young men and women who find life in beat breaks, fresh hooks, and clever punch-lines.
Lupe Fiasco’s “Hip- Hop save my life.”
And last but not least… the all time classic: Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Horay”…the original dedication to Hip-Hop.
Hope yall enjoyed this… R.I.P. to BIG and 2PAC, a number of other artist…And in the words of Eric B. and Rakim: