We’re extremely honored to have one of the key architects to the evolution of DJing & Turntablism for this next episode of Bodega Pirate Radio. Rhettmatic is one of the founders of the Beat Junkies and a prolific hip hop producer during the golden era of the LA underground. We were lucky enough to host Rhettmatic at our LA shop with our friends from Albino & Preto for this exclusive mix and interview. Enjoy.
You’re one of the founders of the Beat Junkies- one of the first Turntablist crews to create a new genre of music. What led to the Beat Junkies first sessions? Who was also there? What were the first live performances like?
J.Rocc is the founder of the crew, I'm just one of the original members. In all honesty, with an exception that a few of us grew up together, we were all from different Mobile DJ crews that were still DJing & cutting it up during the late 80's/early 90's when the DJ took the background & the MC/Rapper took the center stage. Most of our peers either got more into producing or stop DJing all together. We all meet thru different parties/events & just gravitate towards each other because we realize we still have the love for DJing. You can say the original members were J.Rocc, DJ Curse, Melo-D, & myself...then others members got down along the way: Dj What?!, DJ Icy Ice, DJ Symphony (the only female member), DJ Havik, Shortkut, D-Styles, Tommy Gun, DJ Babu, & Mr. Choc. There were 13 members altogether. I honestly don't remember which was our "first" performance...that's kinda a blur. Haha!
When did you start producing beats? Your most recent drop - Loops, Chops , Beats & Vibes sounds incredibly dense with beats that go off. You wrote that both your samplers died out and it was entirely composed by sample layers. Did you end up liking that process better?
I was doing drum programming on an Alesis HR16 Drum Machine during the late 80's but I really didn't get into "beatmaking" until 1991 when I got my EMU SP1200 drum machine sampler. My first official record that I produced was the B-Side of Key-Kool & Rhettmatic's "Can U Hear It" in 1994. The song is called "E=MC5", a posse cut that featured Key Kool & LMNO of the Visionaries, Legendary LA Underground MCs by the name of Vooodu! & Meen Green, & a MC from Carson that was making a buzz in the underground: Ras Kass.
Side note: Ras, Vooodu, & Meen Green were a crew called "Western Hemisfear" & they were ready to take the city by storm until they broke up. So you can say that this is the only official Western Hemisfear recording on wax.
Yeah, my latest project, "Loops, Chops, Beats, & Vibes", it wasn't produced traditionally with a drum machine sampler (SP1200/MPC2000), nor it was made on a DAW sampler software (Reason/Maschine)...it was all cut, paste, copy, style on production on Pro Tools. It's was more tedious using a grid. No drum programming involved. It's not a new style of production, it's been done before, but for me it was different from I used to doing. I actually got inspire to do this style of production from watching Will I Am of the Black Eyed Peas in the studio & my brother 14KT using Cool Edit on his laptop around 2010 at the time (he now uses Maschine).
When I wanted to start working on a new project, I tried turning both my SP & MPC and both machines were shot...couldn't even turned them on. I used them live last year for a beat set performance at the Low End Theory club, & it was kind of buggin on me before my set. I was able to use it but I believe it was both the bass bottoms & the humidity in the room that affected my machine. Like I said in my liner notes, I didn't want to use my Reason software (which I currently use to make beats; all the beats on "Rhett Got Beats" album was made on Reason) & I wanted to push myself into doing something different, hence I went with the Pro Tools way.
In some ways, it reminded me of going to back to basics by doing either pause tape mixes or layering/looping on a 4 track cassette recorder. I don't know if it's the best way to make beats to me, but i was fun in the process in making this project.
You were tour DJ for J Dilla’s last tour ever, you were the beats behind the Visionaries & have worked with everyone from Madlib to Cypress Hill. Is there anybody you still want to work with in the future?
Of course....there's so many people I wish I can work with. I'm mean as for production, I wish I can produce a track for Nas, Ghostface Killah, Redman, Snoop Dogg, Royce Da 5'9, Kendrick Lamar, etc. like everyone else. But ultimately I would love to work with Dr. Dre, composer Lalo Schifrin, & this might sound crazy, but I would love to work with Lenny Kravitz. The ultimate dream is to record an official Beat Junkie Crew album, though I don't know if anyone will check for it these days...Haaa!
When you’re playing out - are there any records that you always come back to? Are there any records that you’re still on the hunt for?
It all depends what type of party or crowd I'm DJing for. Of course, you can't go wrong with 80's Funk/Soul or 90's Hip Hop/R&B, but sometimes, if it feels right, I'll play a lot of house & disco joints for the dance floor. I might be biased but J.Rocc, to me personally, is the king of rocking the party while still giving it that "Beat Junkie Style". J inspires me. Sh*t, my whole crew hella inspires me...& I'm very lucky to be part of a crew with a lot of talented individuals. They keep pushing me.
So to answer your question, it all depends.
I'm always looking for records for both the dance floor, for DJ routines, for production purposes, & to fill in the gaps in my collection, even though I use Serato to DJ.
What led to teaching the next generation and starting the Beat Junkies Institute of Sound?
In all honesty, that idea was sparked by D-Styles. At first, we weren't keen on the idea, because that means we would have to share our "techniques" but D said "what do World Champion fighters do when they retire, they open up a gym & train the next generation of fighters". We're far from retiring cause we're still active & probably even more active ever than now, but D made a lot of sense & it made us think. Plus, it's our way to give back to the community, to do our part to keep the culture alive & share our love, passion, knowledge, & experience with the world.
Any advice for young artists in the game today?
Hmm...In my humble opinion, I would say, do it because you love to do it, that you actually have a passion for it, & not trying to get rich quick & to be famous. There's a difference between getting props & respect & trying to be a star. Also, learn the business, learn to listen & soak up game, be patient, humble, hungry, don't be afraid to fail, & be willing to share the knowledge.
Thanks so much for sharing your history, insight and thoughts. Any plugs?
Since our 20th Anniversary in 2012, we actually branched out to become a legitimate brand & business. We have our own digital record pool: (www.beatjunkies.com). Of course we have our own official DJ school called the Beat Junkie Institute Of Sound in the city of Glendale: (www.beatjunkiesound.com).And we just recently launch our own online DJ school (www.beatjunkies.tv). You can learn the same lesson curriculum that we teach at our school but now online. And last but not least, I run our own radio station called Beat Junkie Radio on Dash Radio. You can listen by either downloading the free Dash Radio app on your phone or listen on the web (www.dashradio.com/beatjunkieradio).
For me personally… believe it or not, I'm finishing up an official new Visionaries ep or album; It's been 12 years since our last album. We have already 7 songs recorded & I'm actually doing all the production on this one. We're taking our time & planning to record more songs. And of course, I will be making more beat instrumental albums along the way. And whatever that comes my way that I'll be blessed to do.