Where I work, I have to listen to shit hip-hop gangsta bullshit music all fuckin’ day! Rap and Hip-Hop that has no substance. Shit about bitches and ho’s and pimpin’ rides n shit. It’s fuckin’ horrible. I have never been a fan of this stuff. I mean, sure, I dig some NWA (selected songs) and do listen to old school hip hop, in fact, for a full year in 1984, me and my brother watched the movie Beat Street every single day without fail but seriously, Beat Street is one of the coolest 80’s movies. ANYWAY, as I cannot stand the shit I have to listen to at work, I tried to meet the co-workers half way and asked them if they’d play DJ Z-Trip’s album, ‘Shifting Gears’. It’s an album that is inspired by 80’s Hip Hop with guest appearances from a bunch of different vocalists including Soup and Chuck D. Like everything I suggest, it was met with a “meh” and they put some shit on that sounded just like all the other crap they listen to. Sometimes the drum beats are at different speeds but it’s still the same fuckin’ song. So still, I fight the good fight and if I can’t listen to the likes of Pig Destroyer at work and RUN DMC, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy are not accepted for being “too old” then I have run out of ideas. Look at it this way, they listen to shit like Wu Tang Clan and some other shit like Chingy Pimp D or whatever. ANYWAY, I remembered I did this interview with DJ Z-Trip when he released ‘Shifting Gears’ and I was stoked to see that he was a DJ that listened to a variety of different music. The people who like Hip Hop at my work listen to NOTHING but Hip Hop. They wouldn’t dare to listen to anything with a guitar in it unless some gang of idiot shitty RNB (and I use the term RNB loosely) groups sampled it. I saw DJ Z-Trip perform a set-up of mash-ups live and he played everything from the Beastie Boys to Motley Crue, from Janis Joplin to Run DMC, from Slayer to Oasis. It was a great night and his stuff is awesome. Read on for what I believe is a top notch interview with a DJ who finally ‘gets it’. I wish my co-workers would.

Hey, I just wanna let you know you’re the first hip hop artist I have ever interviewed.
Really?

Yeah, I mainly interview rock bands and I am only into like old school hip-hop stuff like Grand Master Flash, Ice T, Run DMC and stuff like that cos that’s what I grew up with…
Same stuff I grew up with man.

Exactly, which is why I was so blown away by your work.
Thanks man… You know when I first got my deal, everyone was really on the dick about me doing mash-ups and blending and stuff which is cool, it’s definitely a part of my work and I was like “I could continue down that road but now everyone’s doing it or I could go make the record I wanna make” and the record I wanna make was that record. It was a hip hop record that I knew I’d be going way out on a limb and I’ll probably lose a lot of people but at the same time, I think anyone who listens to those records that you just mentioned or anything from that era would connect with it cos how could you not? It just reeks of that.

Totally… and when I was growing up, I grew up watching Beat Street everyday for a whole year…
Same here man, all of it. Krush Groove and all that shit. You know, if you were into rock music and hip hop at that time, it was such good music and there was such good inspiration from that music. If I was coming up right now and I was just getting into music and I was younger, honestly, I’d be a little let down. There are still bands that are out there that you can draw from… there’s nothing like KISS. Do you remember when you heard KISS for the first time? And you saw the make-up and you were like “what the hell?” or when you heard Public Enemy for the first time, or even when you heard Run DMC for the first time, you were like “this is something that is just totally new and it totally came from somewhere else.” Nowadays there aren’t too many acts that I can say haven’t fashioned their career after a band that was somewhat successful or was original at one point, but now so many people are carbon copies of other bands, it’s really a drag. I mean, if you’re a music lover it’s like they’re few and far between before you get that breath of fresh air.

And that’s why I love your stuff man. It’s fresh and original to hear when I hear all this bullshit like 50 Cent and fuckin’ Chingy. I hate that fuckin’ crap…
You know what I think and I think you can relate and probably most people can, I think a lot of people at record labels and a lot of people who push music as a business, I don’t think they’re as musically inclined as we would like to give them credit for being. I think they just know the business and know how to get their foot in the door and push their product but if you look at the complete opposite side of that, a person who is strictly a music lover and doesn’t care about the business or any of that shit but just loves music, those people are smart and they’re gonna find the good music and they’re gonna cling onto and support good music period. When you have labels and you have all these people shoving it down your throat, it’s almost like if you’re really into music you see through the whole facade of like “ok, this is your summer blockbuster you’re trying to shove down my throat. This is your contrived artist that you’re trying to sell to me.” I have this very good friend of mine who works in an independent record store. It does rock, hip-hop, it does everything. She says anytime she gets a promo or something from somebody whose hand written the address, she always opens it. Anything she gets from Warner Brothers or Sony or whatever, she doesn’t even open it, she just throws it away. And that’s exactly it. The people who give a shit about real good music are gonna search it out and are gonna connect and aren’t as stupid as the major labels are assuming they are. Like, do you agree or am I out on a limb on this one?

I totally agree. When I was growing up listening to punk rock and stuff like that, and completely ridiculed in my teenage years for being a non-drinker and then I discovered Minor Threat and it was like “well fuck you all!”
Exactly, and you found it on your own. You found a way to connect with music that you liked. The record labels don’t give people enough credit that they do that. They’re just always trying to shove the newest freshest thing down the people’s ears and I think a lot of people who aren’t necessarily musically inclined but are just waiting for whatever they’re gonna send them, just go with whatever it is. I mean look at “Achey Breaky Heart”, or look at that stupid song “Barbie Girl”. Look at all those stupid fuckin’ songs that just get shoved down your throat where you’re like “this is just horrible. Nobody likes this, nobody could like this”, but yet there’s the group of people who are gonna be buying that this year and then next year buy whatever’s shoved down their throats.

Yeah, they’re gonna be putting it in the second hand bins…
You know who brought this up to me, it’s funny you said this with the whole second hand bins. I was speaking to Jazzy Jay. We became friends after being in that movie “Scratch” and went on tours and did some shows and whatnot, I was talking to him about my frustrations with major labels and with people who are trying to pump current newest hottest, “You gotta play this, it’s the newest Chingy” or whatever and it’s like “fine but I don’t get where you’re coming from, I don’t feel it” I was talking to him about that and he said to me “you know what? Those people can hand me some music to play and be so excited about it and that same record I can put it on 6 months from now and it’ll clear the dance floor.” He said “I’ve been playing the same records for 30 years and they still work. I know exactly what I’m doing. Those people, they don’t know what they’re doing.” And it’s exactly the way I look at it. Here’s a guy who still has his career, still doing it off of playing records that he knows still connect with the crowd and the crowds still come out to it. If you can tap into that, that’s way bigger and way more real than who downloaded what song this year off of the thing this year. Don’t try the hustle of trying to market something. That to me, the music gets lost in the marketing and before you know it, it’s like who can market it the best and the music is just pushed to a side which is a shame.

It’s like taking music as an artform and turning it into a unit.
Exactly, how many units did so and so sell. I never really care about first week sales. Fuck all that. To me that’s all exactly what the business wants. I really give a shit about ‘is there longevity in it, will people continue to come out to shows, do people like my work, have I not sold out, have I not bought into something that is fake’. Those are all very important things to me as an artist and I think they’re also very important to people who are really into music. Like you’ll follow Minor Threat to the end of the earth. I know I’ve got fans who will follow me til I’m dead. Here’s a great example… Grateful Dead. That’s, in my opinion, how real true hip-hop artists are evolving towards or morphing into. You look at people like ‘Souls of Mischief’ or ‘Living Legends’, they don’t get any radio play but they sell out shows and they sell a shitload of merch and they have huge followings. That to me is the true meaning of underground. That’s the realest thing. They’re not bound by any major label so they make all that money. It works itself out.

Now with your production, keep in mind this is all alien to me. How does one record a hip-hop album, is it all Pro-Tools? What’s the deal? Is it all vinyl?
Well it’s sorta done half and half actually. Pro-Tools has definitely helped out a lot. But certain things I’ll just noodle with. Whatever the current gear that gives me the most versatility, I’ll work with that. But there’s plenty of things where I’ll sit down and do them straight off of vinyl. I try to mix both worlds together. If you stick with just one, you may end up with just the current sounding stuff, if you stick with something that’s an older technique, you get older sounding so I try to flip it around. Whatever my ear draws or the direction of the song is. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more nostalgic or has a bit more of a crusty raw Wu-Tang feel then you obviously don’t wanna process it too much or clean it up, you want it to be dirty and gritty. It depends on the track. I never limit myself to one or the other. Whatever’s gonna make the track work out the best is usually the way I go.

Do you ever play off CDs?
Very rarely. I mean there are a couple times where I’ll make something the night before and I’ll be like “I wanna use this in the show” and obviously I can’t go and get it pressed on vinyl and get it back in time so to burn it to a CD and use a CD-J is usually the way to go about doing it. That takes about half a minute to do but during my set it’s only about a minute of it. It’s something that I do but I try my hardest to press up my own vinyl or to somehow get it on vinyl or work it in. CDs and all that stuff, it all does work but I’m always gonna prefer wax. It just feels right and I’ve been using it for so long. It’s like giving someone whose worked with clay their whole life a computer and saying “right, now make the same thing” I’m not against it but I still prefer my clay.

One of things I found most impressive about your album is the mixture of styles. Especially the track with Chuck D which I feel is the strongest track on the album with the wailing guitars and heavy riffs. Ice T used to cop shit from rap fans for his Bodycount trip, have you copped any crap because of the use of heavy guitars on your album?
It’s really hard for people to put me in a category which is both good and bad. I’ve had a few people who were exposed to the Chester Bennington track or the Chuck D track who are straight-up hip-hop heads, and I use that term very loosely, who hear it and they’re like “I don’t like it” but then I’ve had other people who have totally done the complete opposite. I’ve been getting mixed reactions from different people. There’s a piece for everybody on the record which is cool cos if you don’t get the rock stuff you’ll connect with the hip-hop stuff, the song with Soup from Jurassic 5, you can’t get any more hip-hop than that track right there. To try and put them both on the one CD was the goal. I look back at people like Grandmaster Flash, Afrikka Bambaataa, Kool Herc, people who were playing records and selecting records that had nothing to do with each other, shouldn’t have even been in the same record crate, but yet they played them and people dug ‘em and just got it and to me, that’s what I was trying to do with this record. I was trying to have everything on this record that I do come across in a way that it doesn’t necessarily sound right but if you dig deep enough, it all sorta goes together. That was the whole deal with naming it “Shifting Gears” cos it’s all over the place, sort of intentionally. I didn’t sit down and write the songs one after the other chronological, I just sat down started making songs and at the end of the day I was like “wow, this is gonna fuck a lot of people up. Like how do I string this along and make it make sense?” so naturally I was like “the early hip-hop stuff goes first, midway we change it up a little bit and at the end of the record we go for the more futuristic sound. That was the best way to lay it out. I think it works and I think a lot of people get it but at first listen, people’s first reactions were like “I don’t like it” and then they came back to it and digested it a bit more and were like “Actually, I do like it and I’m going back for more” and that’s sort of a thing that if you’re so programmed to be buying the latest hip-hop records and all of a sudden mine comes across your plate, you’re not gonna like it at first. Maybe you will but if you’re into buying all the top 10 Nelly’s or whatever the hell and you get my CD, you’re gonna be like “what the fuck is this?” I think naturally it’s sort of the first instinct for anybody to maybe be turned off cos you don’t understand it. I find myself doing the same thing and here’s a good example: De La Soul. I’m a huge De La Soul fan, always have been and every time they release a record, I get it, I listen to it and then I’m like “you know what? I’m just not feeling it. I think they lost it. It’s over.” And then I’ll not come back to it for another week or 2 weeks. Then I’ll sit down again with it and I’ll go “wow, actually you know what, I’m in a different mood today and I totally connected with that one song” and then the next week I’ll come back in a whole different mood and connect with another song and then before you know it that album becomes one of my favourite albums. It had to grow on me and I had to give it the chance. I think this is one of those records.

I think finishing off the way you do with the Chuck D track and the Revolution part after it, it’s such a powerful and strong way to finish off an album. I think that Chuck D always adds that element of driving the point home cos he’s very politically moved anyway and that’s one of the reasons why I think Public Enemy have lasted as long as they have cos they’re not singing about Drive-Bys and Ho’s and gangsta shit…
I agree. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do the song with Chuck D; was to hammer that thing home that he comes with. He can come with fire and he still has it in him.

Well dude, it’s been cool speaking with you man. Thanks for the chat. I look forward to seeing your live show.
Come up and introduce yourself man. Take care. Peace!

http://ztrip.bandcamp.com

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