With the recent release of their latest (and highly-anticipated) studio album this past spring, The Future Ain't What It Used To Be, Deepspace 5 let fans know that they're still around. To talk a little about the album (and some other projects they're working on), DS5 members Beat Rabbi, Dust, Listener and Playdough took some time to chat with JFH's Scott Fryberger, while also throwing in bits and pieces about making music as a career...
This interview took place on: October/November, 2010.
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): Am I catching you at a good time?
Yeah man, I was just doing some homework with my son. He had to draw Mt. Rushmore, and he had to put four people that he would put on it. Like if he could do his own Mt. Rushmore, who would he do? And so haha, this fool put me, his mom, himself, and Michael Jackson. *laughter* All four of them, dawg. It was kinda tight haha. (Scott: Haha that sounds like quite the honor.) Yeah, and Michael Jackson's hair was real weird. I said "Yo what's up with his hair?" and he's like "Well sometimes he wears a ponytail." I said "Oh that's a ponytail? Tight." It was real cool. (Scott: How old is your son?) He just turned seven, man. Yeah, he's getting big. He's freaking tall. That guy's gonna start driving before we know it. "I'll meet you guys at church!"
JFH (Scott): Tell us what your role is in Deepspace 5.
They call me Beat Rabbi and I primarily make beats. I'm an adopted son of God, a father, a husband, an employee, a student, a deacon and a teacher. I do beats. Scratches (just a few). DJ'ing live shows. Picking out really good samples for looping or scratching.
Well, there for a few years, I kinda oiled the machine a little bit as more of an organizer, and I kinda helped Bake Sale. I don't know if you know the story about how we made The Future Ain't What It Used To Be. We raised money by making an EP through the mail, kinda like ghetto-style. And I kinda organized that and helped it fly. We sold it on dustbrand.com and marsill.com. So I kinda helped that along, and some of the other guys were kinda organizing parts. So I kinda helped that for a little while. Musically and artistically, a portion of what you hear sonically is Dust production. So, I do beats, and also about 50% of what you see visually - the art, design, direction - I also do that. I kinda collaborate with Dan [Smith] on the art. But it usually kinda rests in my lap. I also shot the one and only Deepspace 5 music video, which is the song "From the Outside," that you can see on YouTube and Vimeo.
Main role is definitely emcee, and then I do beats too. But not as many beats as I do raps. I got a lot more raps on there than tracks. But I do that too. But you know, I'm a rapper, dude. An emcee.
My role is pretty simple, I'm just a vocalist. One of the vocalists of Deepspace 5.
JFH (Scott): How did you become a member of the group?
Listener: Well, in high school, I made some music and kinda shared it around with some other guys who were kinda making the same style of music, who were of the same faith, and we all decided that while there wasn't much of a scene anyways - I don't know if there is really anymore - but there wasn't much of a scene then so we decided to kinda band together. And there was five of us, so it was me and Greg [Owens], and the two Joes [Evans and Brewer], and Jason, Recon the producer. And we made an EP back in '97 I do believe, and yeah we just decided to make some kind of a group out of it. (Scott: And then everyone just kinda came along on their own?) Yeah there were a few years there where everone just kinda did their own things of course. I mean, Deepspace 5 is more of a recording group, kind of a club really for all of us. We just have a blast hanging out together. We've never really lived near one another. We've toured some, I mean I toured with Mars ILL before, and Doug - Playdough - he's come along and we've toured together. Just different tours like that but we've never been able to all get together. Ten guys now, and that's kinda hard to tour with ten guys all around the place. So we've played only maybe one or two shows. But yeah, after we made that EP, Nate and Greg from Mars ILL got a record deal with Uprok and put out a record, and they kinda talked Uprok into putting out a Deepspace 5 record. That's how we got our Gotee record released as well, because of Nate and Greg. They got on there and were able to talk them into putting out one of ours too. Which was real nice of them!
Beat Rabbi: Braille, who I met at Cru-vention '99, actually hooked me up with Manchild. I met Manchild and Dust for the first time at Cru-vention 2000 in Nashville. I played them some beats from my duo project, Circumcised Mind, and after sending Manchild the beat that eventually became "Stick This In Your Ear" [from The Night We Called It A Day]. Later that summer, I was asked to join the group. This was a few months after Playdough and Freddie Bruno joined.
Playdough: Oh yeah, that's kind of a cool story. They had already kinda started a little thing. Nothing major, but they were doing it, they were a crew. And me and Freddie B. were in a crew called Phonetic Composition. That was like the first record I ever put out, like old school crew, me and Fred B. So anyway, right after that came out, Manchild did a review for it for some website - I forget, he was working with somebody. Anyway, we just kinda started talking a little bit, then we did the "Black Market" song together for the Raw Material album for Mars ILL. Man, it's a crazy story when I think about it dude. Not to be long-winded, but on the real, I flew to Atlanta to do that song with him. I never did that. I didn't really know him. I mean, normally you just kinda go to a studio wherever you're at, and then lay your verse and send it in the mail to the other dude. But for whatever reason, I went to Atlanta. In retrospect, I don't really know why. I guess it was God really. But we just hooked up in the studio and sintax was there and Dust was there and that's where I met all those dudes. So when I came back to Dallas, we were pretty cool. And then they hit me and Fred up, and said they wanted us to be in the crew after we dropped the PC album. So, it's kinda natural, you know, 'cause we just started kicking it and we were all into the same stuff. Those dudes are homies, man, and when I heard their record, it was like "Man, where these dudes been? These guys are dope! How come I haven't been knowing these guys?" And that's it. I said "I gotta talk to Fred," and Manchild said it was cool. So we talked it over and Fred was like "Uh...yes! Let's be in Deepspace 5!" I was like "Yes! That's some freaking good news!" But yeah man, that was like in 2001.
Dust: Greg (that's Manchild) and I, we met at this convention in the 90s called Cru-vention. It was like a Christian hip hop music convention, and it was an absolute disaster as far as conventions go haha. It was like the most disorganized place in terms of getting information from the convention. But in the 90s it was so rare to be around other believers that did quality hip hop. And somehow Greg and I connected there. I gave him a couple of my demo tapes. I didn't know him and he didn't know me. But he was there and that was kinda the first meeting of miniature DS5. I think they recorded the first EP at Cru-vention. I wasn't a part of Deepspace 5 at the time; it was Listener, Sev Statik, sintax.the.terrific, Manchild and Recon, who was one of the earlier beatmakers for DS5. Those guys all kinda came together at the convention. Well anyway, I met Greg there, and the next year, Mars ILL formed. And I was kinda like Grandfather Claus then to Deepspace 5, you know, as Mars ILL producer. I'm kinda second generation, I came in right after that first group.
JFH (Scott): Does your stage name have any special significance?
Listener: Whenever I started using the name Listener for the things that I do, at the time I was making hip hop music, I was younger and in high school and stuff, and everyone had to have a rap name of course. I wanted something that was kinda humble, 'cause there's a lot of rap names that are not, and I've always kinda been the anti-everything almost. So, I picked that one, and so for a few years there I used Listener as just the name for myself, but for the past five years now I haven't used it as just myself, I've just used that as a band name. I mean, I'm a part of Deepspace 5 and there I am known as Listener, but it's been kinda silly to give myself a band's name. So I haven't really used that as a stage name for about five years now. What I've done as a band we've just been calling Listener, and I've got different friends come along on different tours and we've recorded together; different drummers and guitar players, and we've just been the band Listener out on tour and on record. That's kind of a long answer, I guess.
Dust: Eh, not really. You know, you can kinda put all kinds of meanings to it now, but honestly a friend of mine just said it would be a cool name. And I was like "Yeah that would be cool. Let's do that." So really I just liked the ring of it. So you know, you could say Dusty, digging in the crates, I got Dust on my fingers, all that stuff. You could also say everything's gonna return to dust one day. But to be honest, that was all after. (Scott: Haha so nothing more than just a cool name?) Yeah pretty much. (Scott: Nothing wrong with that!)
Beat Rabbi: I was originally wanting to go by Truth, but my homie at the time thought it was sort of sacrilegious to call yourself that. So I eventually wound up with Rabbi, and added the "Beat" part through trying to find a unique email address on Yahoo.
Playdough: Really, when you come up with one, you could come up with it for a bunch of different reasons. A lot of times it's just cause it's tight, or sometimes it'll come from your name, like your government name or whatever. And then after the fact you try to add significance to it, you know? Like "Aw man, I'm gonna make it Playdough because He's the potter and I'm the clay. That's perfect." You know what I mean? But on the real, it's just a play on my name. And I came up having a bunch of super wack names, but that was the name that I had when I finally started making some noise. So that's the one that stuck.
JFH (Scott): Who are some of your influences?
Playdough: Hmm, like musical? (Scott: Well anything that affects the way you make your music.) Oh yeah, yeah. Man, definitely The Roots. Especially musically, 'cause they taught me a lot about more than just hip hop. And I love Nirvana, I love The Beatles, I like The Doors, I like De La [Soul], they're a huge influence. And really Cypress Hill is probably a huge influence too, just because timewise when I heard them, they were on something that I was into. It was good timing for me, and so looking back, I can really see how they once influenced by delivery. And the more I look back at Cypress Hill, I can pinpoint that. That whole thing, that whole movement with DJ Muggs and all that Soul Assassins stuff. So, Cypress Hill, House of Pain, all that stuff came out at the same time. And DJ Muggs had his hand in all that stuff. So that was big time. But, you know, the usuals, A Tribe Called Quest, I love Blackalicious. The Gift of Gab is super dope. (Scott: Oh yeah dude.) You know what I'm saying bro? Anyone who's a super dope emcee is a pretty big influence on me. (Scott: I heard some Blackalicious recently and it was pretty good.) Oh man, they're freaking fresh bro. The Gift of Gab is the rapper in Blackalicious, that dude is like... you know, you take away the buzz and perception and all those things, and you just go skill for skill, in my opinion that dudes is tops. Dude you cannot fake that. Listen, when I listen to his verse, I'm like "When is this dude breathing?" I can normally pin out, even if it's not a big breath, like "Oh yeah he took his breath there." But The Gift of Gab, that guy? I can't hear it. He's killing it. And yeah, he's gonna be on my next album. He's gonna be on the Playdough album, Hot Doggin'. It's gonna be super dope. But that's for another conversation.
Dust: Oh man, I've got kind of a weird mix of musical tastes. Not real weird I mean, pretty straight-forward. But they're weird things to influence hip hop. You know, my dad was a very big music lover growing up, and there's nothing like too interesting, but I mean music in the 70s was just great. It's no secret, I'm 37 years old, so I grew up with music in the 70s, and from an early age I've listened to a lot of rock and roll, and if you go back and listen to it now, even the mainstream stuff, it was pretty heavy and pretty funky, and I've always had that kind of influence. In the 70s I was pretty young when Dad was listening to that, but then in the 80s, I'm not sure how this happened, but my cousin showed me the movie The Blues Brothers, like 1982 or '83, and for some reason we got obsessed with that music. The music from that movie kinda shaped what I liked from then on. And obviously The Blues Brothers and rhythm & blues and stuff like that was very mainstream, and from there, I didn't know it, but I was fan of blues. And then 80s hip hop wasn't real bluesy, but it definitely had similar quality, like it was recycling music from the 60s and 70s. And looking back now, I can see that. But at the time, I had no earthly reason to like hip hop. The first time I heard it, I loved it. So 70s rock, blues music and growing up on hip hop, the classic stuff. So as a producer, probably my biggest influence would be Scott La Rock, who produced Boogie Down Productions' first album, Criminal Minded. And then right after that would be The Bomb Squad's Public Enemy, early production, and then DJ Premiere and DJ
Muggs. So if I had to say who I stole from the most, it would be those four artists. And I think, as I got older, the stealing became less obvious, and I was kinda morphing my own thing there. I would say it took a good five or six years before I felt like I was really standing on my own two feet. So, that's my long answer to a short question.
Listener: There's a lot of bands that I like and am probably influenced by. I actually like all kinds of different bands and music. As far as the things that influence me band-wise at least, I really like a band called As Cities Burn, a band called Why?, there's a lot of great songwriters, I like a lot of folk music. Since I'm a words guy, I like really good songwriting. I like the band Brand New, AA Bondy, there's so many that have really come and gone. I really like the Arcade Fire, they just put out a new record. There's some bands that come and go, and some that just pop into my radar and they're interesting for a while and then kinda go. But I really like instrumental music like Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros, they're really interesting to me. I always bought their records when they came out. I don't know, I like watching good movies and building furniture and designing things and touring. My life's lapsed a few years, there's been so much touring, and that's really affected the way I write and the things that I write about, since I'm with people constantly, and it has been that way. (Scott: So lots of things influence your writing.) Yeah, I mean, I've never really been the type that's only influenced by music. I mean, early on when I first started making music, my thing was rap. Like in junior high and high school, I just loved it, but I kinda fell out of interest with that a while ago.
Beat Rabbi: Mine are more golden age: Marley Marl, Pete Rock, Prince Paul, earlier Primo and early RZA. Throw a little Rick Rubin and Mantronik in there.
JFH (Scott): When you're on tour, how do you maintain relationships with family and friends?
Beat Rabbi: No touring for me!
Dust: Well, you know, that's a tricky one. I'm sure for you being a writer for a music website you talk to a lot of artists, and this one doesn't escape anybody. And I know a lot of people who have done it well, and I know a lot of people that have fallen. And their families have fallen from them being on the road and being away. When Mars ILL was on the height of its touring, we had several policies about touring. And we felt strongly that ten to twelve days at a time was the maximum that we should be away from home. And we learned that the hard way. I think our first tour was with MG! The Visionary and it was like twenty-five days or something. Both being young married men at the time, [Greg] had just the one child, I didn't have any kids at the time. It woke us up. Like "Okay, we can't do this. We have bigger priorities." So that spawned the ten-to-twelve-day rule. And so with Mars ILL, we kinda piecemealed our tours, like you look at the success of Mars ILL, we toured a lot, but we weren't like three-month-tour guys. We never went on these huge tours, we just had a different way of going about it. I mean, it was still hard. Staying in touch with the family was just hard. You can ask my wife if she liked when we toured, and she would say no, but she definitely understood its value and I think it's pretty much key in order to have any sort of success in the music industry. (Scott: So no more than maybe a couple weeks at a time?) Yeah. And, you know, if some great show popped up in between our ten or twelve day runs, we would do it, but only if it was good money or a very important show. So we'd do ten to twelve days and then take about three weeks off. You'd be surprised, if you do that consistently a whole year, it can seem like you're out a lot, more than you are. The name of our second record, which was an EP, was called Blue Collar Sessions. It was like the mentality of a working man's hip hop, like seeing it more as your everyday job and not some glamorous lifestyle, you know. And our music's not such that it's gonna fill out arenas, so we kinda had to approach it that way.
JFH (Scott): Rabbi, when working on Deepspace 5 albums, how many songs do you usually do as opposed to Dust's tracks?
Beat Rabbi: On the first couple of records I only had two or three joints while Dust carried the majority of the record. That was okay because he's an incredible artist. However, on The Future..., I got five beats on there. I feel it was the best effort I had put into a Deepspace5 release.
JFH (Scott): Playdough, how did you like making The Blueprint 3 Outtakes?
Playdough: Ah man, honestly, I loved that. That was a cool thing to kinda look back and retrospect on what it kinda turned into. Like, to think that we're capable of doing that. Beyond me, that's one of those situations where I look at it and I'm just mad proud of the dudes I rhyme with. But just to kill it as fast as we did, and to come as correct as we did, I love it, dude. For exactly what it is. Deepspace 5 just kinda needed to make a mixtape like that. We got some super nerds in the group that conceptualize with the best of them. So sometimes it's cool to just scale it back and just rap, just show off some skill and just flex it real quick. So for me, that was a blast. I'm all about that, dude.
JFH (Scott): As for the other guys, did you have any involvement in that mixtape?
Listener: No, and there's a couple different reasons. It was a really fast mixtape style thing. I didn't really understand the project, first of all. And it was real fast, and they had to make it in like a week. I guess there was someone who put out some remixes or something of a rap record or something like that. And since it was hot, some of the guys thought we should do something with it. I don't exactly remember the idea. But I was on tour, and we were up in New York, and we just had no off days, and there was no time for me to do anything, really. So I was just not able to be on the record, mostly because we were just busy with shows like everyday. That and I don't think I fully understood the project or the brevity of it. I've been a part of all the Deepspace 5 things - Bake Sale, the EP and the three albums - but that's the only one I wasn't a part of. I think they had me call in and shoot like a voicemail of some sort. But they didn't use my whole voicemail, I had a joke. It was the best. But they didn't use the whole thing. But oh well. So yeah that's why I wasn't on that. I just didn't quite understand the project and I just didn't have enough time to do it 'cause we were on the road.
Beat Rabbi: Nope, I had nothing to do with it.
Dust: None, other than listening, like - when they were going back and forth, I was part of the email chain, kinda listening in on some of the mixes and stuff. So I kinda followed it, the idea and the concept. The concept was kinda like the way Danger Mouse got famous by making The Grey Album. Not that we're trying to be famous, but we're trying to cash in on some sort of buzz that those beats kinda made. I heard through the grapevine that the guy kinda got mad, the producer.
Playdough: Haha, oh man. I gotta plead the fifth on that. I don't know. Look, I haven't talked to Alex Goose, haven't heard anything straight from Alex Goose's mouth. So anything else would be speculation.
Dust: To be honest, when you leak beats out there, you're kinda saying this and that about them, you're basically asking people to do that, you know? "Here's all of my beats that I made." You know, I don't think it made one difference one way or the other, that album I mean, but it was kind of a nice way to let people know that we're still around.
JFH (Scott): Listener, you're more of a poet than a rapper, though your style has changed over the past few years. Do you prefer doing poetry or your newer style?
Listener: I prefer doing both. It's one of those things where...I kinda don't really know how to sing and play guitar. I mean, I guess I could do both of those things a little bit, but I'm terrible at them. So whenever I'm writing or trying out a new song, the only option or the only way I really know how is to memorize and say it as a poem. And so that's kinda how all Listener songs really start out. In between some songs at shows, I might just say a new song or two during a set. I just memorize it and try to figure it out. I don't know, I like them both. I would rather go on tour and play our songs as songs, and actually write full songs with full movements, 'cause I like going to concerts that are moving and musical and lyrical and just kind of a full experience. So, I like making albums as full pieces with drums and guitars and production and bass and even added production like washing machines and whatever else we dream up, and just put in the poems that I write wherever that fits in those movements. I mentioned earlier that I really like instrumental music. I like it for its builds, and you can really feel the emotion of what they're writing even without any words. So it's just making good music and having good lyrics and just smashing them together. Not in the avant garde way, but in a way that makes sense. That's kinda the goal a little bit. So I can definitely just say all our songs just as poems if I just go on a solo tour. But on this last tour, I have an electric bass, and Chris plays a couple different guitars, acoustic and electric, and we got the washing machine and horns. There's just two of us that tour right now. It seems like a long answer, but songs always start out as poems. If someone said "Well do you wanna make a poetry album, or a regular Listener album?" I would probably say that I'd work really hard and make a regular Listener album. But also, with Wooden Heart, we took all the songs and I just said them as poems as well, just because I like poems. So we just gave that option, 'cause a lot of people have definitely gravitated toward the poems as well. So we just kinda gave both of those options.
JFH (Scott): Any other groups that you've worked with?
Listener: I recorded a song with The Chariot for their new record a few weeks ago before they left for their tour that they're on right now. And we also made a music video for that album, but I'm not a part of that band by any stretch. But those are the only things that I've been working with. But there's a couple other projects I've been talking about working with, but most of what we've been focusing our efforts on are just being on tour and putting out Wooden Heart lately.
Dust: I've recently done a project for PND. PND is Poems N Dust, that's what it's short for. And it's just kinda my world and his world colliding together. So I'm kinda bringing what I like about music and what he likes about music and just finding a comfortable spot at the table together. I always really enjoyed his parts and all the LA Symphony stuff and I always thought he would be a great person to hear over my beats. And that album [Dirty Words] actually came out [recently] on Humble Beast Records.
JFH (Scott): What are some of your favorite Deepspace 5 tracks?
Dust: Man, that's a good question. Are you talking the whole history, or just from the new record? (Scott: Just any tracks you guys have done.) Man, there's one from the last record, I can't remember the title. While I think of it, I'll go to the new record, just 'cause it's more recent. I really love "Lord Willing." Obviously, I produced the track. It's my personal baby. But there was something about what Dan did with the chorus that made that track better. Like when I made it, it just kinda felt like a very straight-forward fast tempo, fast, upbeat track. But then when he recognized some of the blues element to it, he just did what he does and made it even better. So that's one of my favorites. And "Killing With Kindness" is a great track. "Beat the Rap" is great - two of the guys in Deepspace 5 don't like conceptual stuff, I won't say any names, because I'm sure that'll be another DS5 sore spot, but the conceptual nature of ["Beat the Rap"] is great, I love it. Going back to the previous record, "Wingspan" is the name of the track. It's a Dust beat. Probably my best track on Unique, Just Like Everyone Else is "Mechanical Advantage." I produced it. It's just super cool. And from the first record, "F Words" is probably my favorite, just because it's an unusual beat. And yeah I guess those are the highlights. I have more, but they're probably more obscure. This one's not one of my favorite tracks, but I love it 'cause my daughters love it, but it's "Bake Sale," the title track from Bake Sale. Originally I kinda "poo poo'd" it through email just 'cause I thought it was kinda corny, the whole idea. The idea of a bake sale was the whole idea of the project, but I just thought some of the raps were corny haha. So I kinda wanted to bury it on that album, but everyone else was not feeling me on that. But I've kinda come around to it. My daughters, that's all they want to listen to in the car, "Bake Sale." Just that one song.
Beat Rabbi: Too many to name. Here are some off of the top: "This Curse I Bear," "World Go 'Round," "Crumbs," "Dedicated to the Road," "Ohgeez," "From the Outside," "Gloria," "Beautiful," "Downtown Connects," "Say Yeah"...
Playdough: Ooh wee. Man, from [The Blueprint 3 Outtakes], I love the song "Golden Boid." I love "We In Here," Fred sets that one off right. And then from the new record, I love "Natural Selection," and for my own kinda personal reasons, I think I love the "Body Double" song. We had that idea for the first record, and we tried it and we just failed, homes. It did not work. It's just a hard concept to pull off. So we liked it, and we just kinda waited until we knew enough about what we were doing and we could pull it off. And so we tried it again for The Future... and in my opinion we nailed it. Like, it's not its own little stand-alone single, but the concept behind it, to be able to pull it off, I love it. I listen to it and I'm pretty proud of that. And kinda the same thing on the first record, I really loved ["Elementary"]. We break down the elements, and everybody raps from the perspective of one of the elements. It's dope dude. The periodic table, everybody takes one and we all rap from the perspective of that. That's what I'm saying, the crew can get so nerdy on some of these concepts. I mean, what rappers say that? Like "Oh let's be one of the freaking periodic elements." So, whatever. It's weird. It was fun to do, but that's my crew. We scale it back sometimes, keep it a little more dumbed down, but you know our fans are nerds too, dawg, they like it when we get all deep like that. So it's kinda fun to be able to do that. We all love being creative. (Scott: One of the concept songs I like is "Beat the Rap." Everything about it just flows really well.) Yeah thanks dude. Yeah it came out dope. I knew people would dig it. That's another one where we had the idea and we were talking about it and wondering, like "Man this looks really good on paper, but lets see if we can get all these dudes on there." Some guys in the crew have a rep for not staying on topic as much as some of the other dudes, without naming any names, sometimes you hear the song and wonder "Is this guy gonna stay on the topic? Figures he's gonna start rapping about where he's from." So yeah, we nailed it on "Beat the Rap." And Dust killed it man, he added a lot of that stuff, post-production style. We had already dipped out from the recording process, and he sent it out to us with a lot of that stuff added on top of it. He really took it home, man. There's a lot of live stuff on that, like some live bass and stuff. He freaked it out.
JFH (Scott): Playdough, similar question. What are some of your favorite tracks that you've done, as far as Playdough, Phonetic Composition, ill harmonics?
Playdough: Man, I love the PC album, All Smiles, there's a couple jams on that. I love the song called "Herman Munster" - Theory Hazit did that beat, and the track is dope. I really like the PC song "Red Hat Letter" - the rhymes and stuff on that I love. And then on my? Man that's kind of a hard call, dawg. I think I like stuff for different reasons, and I think I look at stuff a little different than the average Joe would. Like I said, sometimes I listen to it, what the concept was, what it turned out to be...different stuff for different reasons. But I love "Don't Drink The Water." I remember making that beat, before I had a concept and before I had any ideas or anything, and just loving it, just loving the beat. I didn't know what I was gonna do with it, and it just turned into that. I remember the whole process. I remember when Rabbi was in town and he came to the crib, I had it loaded up on my MPC, and I was like bragging about it. Like "Dude listen to this new beat I made!" Like we were in freaking college. But yeah, then Lonely Superstar... man, "Shadow Dance" is one of my favorites. I still do that at shows. It's cool when you make something that's - well, I don't wanna say it's timeless - but you can listen to it way later and it still seems as fresh as when you did it. 'Cause a lot of times, especially with rap, you can listen to older stuff and kinda laugh a little 'cause it's corny. And I'm sure I'm guilty of that too. But you change and grow, and you look back at your old stuff and go "Aw man!" But yeah "Shadow Dance," I love that song the more I listen to it. (Scott: I just got a copy of Lonely Superstar. And yeah, I can definitely tell that it's older, but it's good.) Yeah, thanks dude. Yeah, like I said, I'll probably always have a different view of it. I don't think it's overall corny, there's just bits and pieces of it when you hear something and you kinda cringe sometimes. But yeah overall it's dope. I'm happy with it. It's gotten me a lot of love man. I mean really it's gotten me - everything that I've done is off my solo album. That junk's taken me around the world. I get mad love for it too. I wonder sometimes how, like you said, what it's like to go back and listen to my older stuff after you're already familiar with my newer stuff. But I definitely think there's been a progression. I've been doing it for a minute, man. And I'm definitely still trying to learn it, and get better at it, and get better at writing and everything. Writing music and melodies...and I've figured it out, for the most part anyways. More than when I first started. And I feel like this new stuff is the best to date.
JFH (Scott): Dust, the samples that we hear in your beats, do you make any of those yourself?
Dust: I would say about 85-90% of it is sample bass production. And it's something that is just a time-honored tradition, and it's what I like and what I grew up on. I will say that anything from 2005 and up, I started having to be a little more creative in how I sample, and what I use to supplement that. But yeah, 2005, that's kinda when the labels came on the scene and I had to be a little more ingenious with the way I sample. And I started working with a lot more musicians. So on a record like the most recent one, it's like sample/musicians, but samples always come first. And a lot of musicians will say "Oh it's not music" or whatever, but I really don't care. I feel like there's a reason that hip hop feels great, and because it's like married to the past. And my stuff has this dusty sound because of that. And, you know, it is illegal to sample, so you can't just do whatever you want with it. You have to be clever, if you will, in what you sample and how you sample it. But... man, I could talk for days about this, you know, just because of the whole Pro*Pain fiasco. I've learned quite a bit about sampling, and it definitely derailed some of Mars ILL's momentum at a very key time. But, even through all that, I still feel very strongly about it, and I'm sure Rabbi will say the same thing, as well as Fred B. and Playdough. They all kinda come from that same school of thought. Not to say that people who make hip hop with live instruments or are playing with synthesizers or whatever are any less hip hop or whatever. And at the same time, it doesn't make me a better or worse producer. But, as long as I'm making music, I will sample. I just feel like sampling is why hip hop is great - a large part of it. I would say... 40%.
JFH (Scott): Speaking of Mars ILL, do you guys have another album planned?
Dust: No. Currently, no. And I'll tell you why. At a certain point, Greg kinda "retired." He's not retired anymore; he's very much alive and well in the hip hop game. But when he did that, it put a big question mark over my head, like what have I been doing? You know, I spent ten years branding and basically pouring my efforts into Mars ILL and Deepspace 5. And so from there I started doing other things. I did the Back 2 Dust record with Sev Statik, and then I did this PND record that just came out. And even more, I started this film company in 2008 called Dust Brand Films, and that just kinda jumped off in a major way. But I still feel very strongly about making a record with Greg, but between his job and six kids and my business now, it's become increasingly hard to do. And we definitely want to do it, but my thing is, if we're gonna do it, it's gotta be Pro*Pain plus ten, you know what I'm saying? It can't be like Pro*Pain Part 2 or like "wah wah wah, they made another record," you know? So, I don't want my last Mars ILL piece to be like "Hmm, that's alright." So, it's just a matter of finding a right moment and finding a moment with Greg where we can actually collaborate, not just me make some beats and him make some raps. To me, that's a big problem with music and Christian hip hop in general. A lot of it feels like it was made in a vacuum where there's just nothing. I don't know, our stuff's always been pretty organic in the way it's made, and it needs to come back to that if we're gonna do another one. (Scott: And how long were you working on Dirty Words?) Four years haha. Yeah, we started in 2006, and made the bulk of it in 2006/2007 and kinda shopped it around. We had some very near-successes with this record. Some major label interest for a while, and it was the same old story, 'almost but no cigar.' And Poems from LA Symphony, as the vocalist, worked really hard to get these opportunities for us. He took the time to kinda work on it some more, and during that time, we did a few newer songs, more recent songs, polished it up, and found somebody to release it: Humble Beast, which is Braille, Odd Thomas, Propaganda; all those guys have a label out of Portland now and they're putting stuff out. So yeah, it's been a while for this record, but if you listen to it, it doesn't seem like it at all. It feels brand new. So if you wanna check it out, you can check it out at humblebeast.com as well as relevant.com/thedrop. It's like second or third on their list of listenable records. And the video is on Humble Beast and Relevant under their video page. So yeah you can check that out.
JFH (Scott): Playdough, what's the story behind the Bible Bus Mixtape?
Playdough:: Well, I just needed to do a mixtape, dawg. I just needed to let people know that I'm still dope haha. I looked at the facts of it, and it's been a good four years since my last full-length solo album. So I started breaking it down, like that's somebody's whole high school career. Four years can go by quick, and I've been working on music, and I'm still doing my thing, but to somebody who's in high school and missed that whole time in their life, they don't even know I exist. So I figured I needed to put something out to let people know I'm still fresh, I'm still doing stuff. If you've never heard of me, take a chance. It's a freebie, you got nothing to lose. And then most of the time when people hear me - you know, they like what they hear, so it's a matter of getting people to hear your music. The name of it, though - I was on the road and staying at a camp. I know people think it's got some super deep meaning, but I just saw a bus there that was for this vacation Bible school bus, this real old school bus. It's the one on the cover, and it said "Bible Bus," and it just sounded like something that would catch people's attention, and I automatically envisioned the cover with the freaking bus, thought it was sick. So I just ran with it, I knew there was stuff I could do with it. And since it was a mixtape, it really wasn't meant to be too conceptual, it was just kinda this throwaway title meant to be catchy. You know, it really doesn't have any significance.
JFH (Scott): What about Who's Harry Krum?
Playdough: Harry Krum is the name I go by when I do my production. So since I keep it separate like that, a lot of people don't know that I do beats. So I kinda keep it as that name, and I love it. I love being Harry Krum, it's a totally different side of what I do. But there was a movie in the 80s with John Candy called Who's Harry Crum?, so I said "Yo I gotta call it that!" There was no option, that had to be the name. And then I just used a bunch of samples from that movie throughout, that's what you hear bugging everybody 'cause it's in there so much man. Some people don't know, but I did that, that's like what producers to, it's to watermark your track so that, since it was a free download, you don't get people stealing your beats and start rhyming on them. I was trying to sell those beats. That was the purpose of doing Who's Harry Krum?, like "Yo these are for sale, anybody wanna buy these beats?" And it was cool 'cause I also got to make it to where people could just listen to it as well. So a lot of those beats have been purchased, and some of them are still up for grabs, and some of them will probably never be bought. Maybe they're perfect for a beat tape but not necessarily for an album. So it worked good for me, man. It was a blast to make, and I'm definitely gonna do more of those in the future. But like I said, I'm a rapper first, and just where I'm at right now and what's going on, rapping is my focus right now. It's gotta be. But I'll still do it, I'll still make another one, but right now it's rap time. It's hard when I'm indie, dude. I wear so many hats, and I have time to do this and time to do that; gonna do some shows, and then come over here and make some beats, and whatever, but I'm just doing it all. It's crazy man, sometimes you just gotta look at it like "Man, I really wanna just make some beats."
JFH (Scott): Well, tell me a little bit about your new record that's coming out. It's got me all excited now.
I bought a gang of records today. I was out shopping and just looking at the records, like "I don't know when I'll be able to use this," but I will use it. I couldn't pass it up. I'm big into that stuff man. I see a good record, and I'm just like "Man I gotta scoop this up!" Even if I'm not gonna do anything with it for a minute. Crazy stuff, I got this one today with this dude who's going down in an airplane, and it's all supposed to be some Christian stuff to get you saved. It breaks down your emotions - this is what it said on the back: "It breaks down your emotions that you go through when you're about to die." And so I don't even know what it is, but it was too wild to pass up. So if it's real fresh it might make a Harry Krum beat tape. But that sounds crazy, huh? I don't know, it's like from the 50s, it's got an airplane on it doing a nose dive, and I forget what it's even called but I just read the back of it and was like "whaaaaat?!" It had Scriptures to go along with it and everything, it's crazy.
Playdough: Yeah, well first I'm doing another freebie. Like with the Bible Bus Mixtape, I had it mixed by DJ Sean P. This new one is a freebie, and I'm rapping over - there's a dude out of Florida who goes by the name For Beats' Sake, and he did all the production on it, I did all the rhymes, and it's just supposed to kinda be the next step up from Bible Bus. You know, Bible Bus was other people's beats, a real traditional mixtape. And this one is pretty conceptual. I took other people's from other genre's choruses or other sections of their songs that were really good writing, in my opinion, like I really liked it, I flipped it and made it a hook on my hip hop stuff. So all the songs are hooks from other songs from other genres and stuff. So it was pretty cool. It was kinda hard to do sometimes to take a hook that was a fresh hook over here and then I tried it on a rap beat and then realized that only the melody made it dope. Like if you take the melody away, this hook is pretty wack. I just had to have the right ones, and I found some dope ones, man. I used some of my favorite bands, The Doors, The White Stripes, I did a Modest Mouse song, I did Aerosmith. De La is the only hip hop one that I did on there. Everything else is like some rock stuff. But anyways, that's gonna be next. So I'm gonna drop that at the end of October, and then that one is called Writer Dye. Sounds freaking gangster! *laughter* So I'm doing that, and then the goal at this point is to put out the freebie and then put out the real deal record I've been working on for a long time that's ready to smash the world in the spring. That's the one that people are gonna have to pay some money for. It's called Hot Doggin', and that's the one that's gonna have The Gift of Gab on it. That one's got a lot of outside production on it, more than I've ever done for any of my solo albums. Tons of other people do beats, and I got The Black Keys on there as well, Mr. Dibbs did a beat. So, it's gonna be dope, dude. I've been sitting on it and trying to make sure it's right and get it right and add new stuff. I've been really kinda babying it and making sure it's on point. So for me, it's way on point as far as the time I put into it and made it be what it needs to be. I've been saving it for a minute. I didn't wanna waste it and just put it out real quick just to put it out. I wanna do something with it. So that's why I tried to do the two freebies to hype it up, and then booyah! Hot Doggin'!
JFH (Scott): Is it gonna be on Mega Royal?
Playdough: I don't think it's gonna be on Mega Royal. I haven't really decided yet. I may look into doing it just indie style, but I have some distribution options that may make it work not indie style, if that makes sense. So at this point, I just don't really know. I think I'm just gonna go the indie route, at least to start off with. I've never really done that before, I've always had some sort of a deal you know? So it's a little bit of strange territory for me, but it feels good. It's on purpose. I'm just trying to do something different, dawg. It's kinda cool when you're in control of everything, but at the same time, like I said, it's just so many hats. Like "Man, I didn't know I'd have to do all this." I'm even handling some crazy label stuff right now. I'm doing it myself. But it's good, 'cause you're in control and you get to call all the shots, and then when the money comes in, it's like "Hello!" I'm actually making money off of selling a record? What? That really happens? (Scott: Yeah, it seems more and more bands are going indie 'cause of that fact.) It's crazy man. I mean, I hate money, I hate that so much revolves around money. But when you are such a broke artist, that's a huge setback trying to get paid off of doing it. It's mad difficult. So when you can actually start making money off the work that you do, it's like how it's supposed to be. Some labels are crooked man, doing people dirty. Like any artist that is hungry for it, seems like they get a carrot dangled in front of their face, 'cause they know you just wanna make music. And they know you'll do whatever it takes, even if you gotta do it all yourself and pay for it out of your pocket and then give it to them so they can sell it and make money off of it, when you're the one who spent money on it and spent blood, sweat and tears to make it. I don't know, that's another story, too. But, I'm gonna do it indie, that's what I'm getting at. (Scott: So it'll be sold through your Bandcamp?) Yeah, probably. Bandcamp, and it's definitely gonna be on iTunes. And hopefully the Bandcamp thing won't get held up by any distribution channels. Don't think it'll be an issue, so it should be good. Either way, it's gonna be online for sure. It's called Hot Doggin', so I can't imagine it being too hard to find. Amazon, iTunes, all of that. But Bandcamp is good, they're good to us. I like putting my stuff up there. It's always a good place to go to at least catch up on what I got. 'Cause you know you can put the freebies up, you can put the whatevers up, so it's always cool to go on there and check what I got. There's a lot of stuff on there that people don't know is out. Like a mixtape for Don't Drink The Water right before it came out, just a little promo. Sean P did that, and it's on there, just like a little ten-minute deal.
JFH (Scott): Dust, with your Dust Brand Films company, do you just music videos, or do you do short films and stuff as well?
Dust: I would say 90% music videos, 10% other. I've done EPK's, I've done social media pieces, I've even done promos for local church functions, but mostly music videos. This last year and a half, we've done twenty-eight music videos, anywhere from TobyMac, Deepspace 5, Abandon Kansas, Eyes Around, we did two Sanctus Real videos this year - Sanctus Real's number one single ("Forgiven") we did the video for. So originally, we kinda started out as this independent, gritty hip hop music video company, but now I've done even more than that. I've done pieces for like this convention called Stories, a big convention for creatives and Christian media. I did two pieces for that. So mostly music videos, but we do other things too. Music videos pay the best. (Scott: The first one I saw was the House of Heroes video you did.) Oh yeah, we did the House of Heroes video in June. It was a pleasure to do that video for those guys. They're great dudes with great music, and it was an honor to get to do a music video for them.
JFH (Scott): Any tours in the works?
Listener: Yeah, [my band] leaves for tour again pretty soon, a tour of the west coast. We did six months everywhere pretty much east of the Rockies, like twice. We did some of southern Ontario twice, and all of the United States for the most part except for like a column of western states. And so we're leaving on November 10 again for about a month and a half for another tour of just the western states. That's when we'll leave next, and then I don't really have next year planned out too much, but we're starting to kinda plan out for that. We might tour with this band called The Chariot. I mean, who knows if we'll actually do that? But we've talked about that a little bit, so there's a vague possibility that we might do that. Have you ever heard of that band before? (Scott: The Chariot? Yes I have.) I recorded a song with them for their new record a few weeks ago before they left for their tour that they're on right now. So we talked a little bit about possibly touring together, maybe in the spring.
Playdough: Yeah, I'm staying on the road. I got a bunch of shows coming up with Heath McNease, and some with Manchild, and some with all three of us. And I always have Playdough solo shows. So yeah, at this point I'm booked all the way to December, and then I'll chill for the holidays, and then go back out in January, and then keep working as the year progresses. But yeah, that's what I do, dawg. I don't know about a tour, like oh hey it's a Playdough tour, but I'm definitely gonna hit the road for a week or two at a time. Then come back home and kick it with the fam, and then head out again for another section of the country. That's the one thing I don't like about Bandcamp, you can't update your list of shows or anything. But yeah, I usually try to update my shows online. My MySpace, my Facebook, all that stuff. Also, I'm doing this thing with Heath McNease, are you familiar with him? (Scott: Dude, I love Heath.) Doing a thing with him and Manchild, and this is a little side thing called Whose Rhyme Is It Anyway? It's a little hard to do though, 'cause we're all doing our own thing. And then you almost have to take time away and decide, like "Alright let's make this week here a Whose Rhyme Is It Anyway? week." It's a little different, 'cause normally you just move along yourself, book a show, but for this we gotta put it in all our schedules. But it's so fun, and so I've been doing that too. And so we got a couple more runs of that this year, and that's definitely something people should check out. We've been doing a lot of colleges, it fits really well at colleges. We haven't had too much trouble bringing it in there. I mean, the idea kinda sells itself. There's something about it, bro, people love freestyling, and people love battling. And we can make a night of it, like freestyle all night. And the show depends on the people that come out - what did they bring, what they look like, what are they wearing? It's fun, but kinda scary sometimes. If you mess up in a regular set, you can pick it back up, but if you mess up freestyling and you just drop it, you can kill the whole vibe. But anyway, that's a dope little tour that we've been doing.
JFH (Scott): Do you have any other projects you're working on?
Beat Rabbi: I don't at all. Life right now will not permit it!
Dust: If I do a project, it's gonna be a Mars ILL project. I've had two other offers - well, not offers, but people who wanna work together with me. But I haven't seen any money in the music industry in a long time, as a musician. As a video director, it's been lucrative. As a musician, it's tough. So, if I do another project, it'll be just because of my love for doing a Mars ILL record. Greg and I had lunch together a couple weeks ago, and once again we talked about it, 'cause we're really good at talking about it. So yeah, if we do something, it'll be a Mars ILL thing.
JFH (Scott): That's all I have for you guys. Anything you wanna say in conclusion?
Listener: I just really like making music and putting it all together and touring and stuff. It's been a blast, and a real blessing to be able to tour and do it for a living and be on the road and make music and to have a vision for it above and beyond the things I had visions for when I was younger. And it's been an interesting process to go from being in front of kind of a close-minded genre experience, but still keeping kind of a poetry background with my vocals. But also, you know, a lot of fans have come along for this new experience on these last couple records. And out of necessity, our goal was to not have anything to do with rap music or hip hop or any other branding or anything. So we came up with a new name, and we're just trying to call it "talk music" and people have kinda latched on to that. But yeah, our goals have been to just make music kinda for everybody, and words that would kinda move, not really the masses by any means. But just something anti-any specific genre. A lot of guys are in genres, and I've seen it all across the board, and sometimes it can be devoid of heart. It'll be interesting, like "Oh yeah, that's the latest and greatest thing in that genre, it sounds really like that genre," but it's not really that visionary or moving sometimes. Anyway, those are my two cents.
Dust: Just thanks for calling and caring. Thank you for supporting good music, and for keeping us somewhat in the minds of your readers. It's awesome to see a website like yours survive and thrive in the midst of the sea of media that's out there. How are you guys doing, are you still growing? (Scott: Yeah, definitely. New reviews always going up, new bands signing up for our independent section all the time, and we're always getting new staff members. So, we're doing good man.) Sweet. Well thank you, Scott, I really appreciate it.
Playdough: It's cool. Just thanks for doing it. I appreciate you hitting me up and giving us some shine. But yeah, God bless you dude, and thanks for the love. I'll holla at you!
Deepspace 5's latest album, The Future Ain't What It Used To Be, is out now!