Stones Throw Records sure knows how to make some good old hip-hop for hip-hop heads. Not the rap-pit-ty rap you hear from your regular mainstream artists, but some pure skilled MCs paired with quality DJs and producers. This time Stones Throw presents Quakers, a 35 member hip-hop crew, which showcases the talents of three producers: Fuzzface (Portishead’s Geoff Barrow), 7-Stu-7 (Portishead’s engineer/Invada Records) and Katalyst (partner in Invada Records). With over 40-plus tracks, the production team made efforts to create a collaborative project with MCs that they respected first, not that were just hot for the moment. The self-titled album boasts features from the likes of Dead Prez, Guilty Simpson, Phat Kat, Krondon and newcomers Coin Locker Kid and Lyric Jones.
VIBE speaks to one-third of the crew, producer Katalyst, about the flow of the album, how it all came together and who stole the spotlight. Read an insightful introspection of a grand idea to raise the standard of hip-hop quality come into existence.
Get a feel for the music with a video introduction here.
Huge collab projects are tough to map out rapper wise, what was the MC selection process like?
It was quite organic really. We started by trying to find talented MCs that we hadn't heard off before, spending hours on the Internet, Myspace etc (back when people were still using it that is). Soon after that we started hitting up more known MC's we thought would suit the album. We just kept chipping away at it till we had 30 + MCs recorded for the album which was the aim.
With everyone in different places, internationally as well, how did the recording sessions go?
Some were recorded in the Bristol UK at Geoff studio, some were record here in Sydney, Australia at my studio and some MCs got their vocals recorded where they could and sent them to us to mix. The session's I recorded here were relaxed. That's the way I like to work. Fire up a bit of inspiration, vibe out on some music and get down to it.
Who just made the album and who just missed it?
I think everyone on the album deserved to be there and those that didn’t make it on, well there always next time. I wont go into any details except to say most of the people we asked to be on there are on there.
There is only one song over 3mins long and only one song is over 4mins long. What was the plan for these short bursts of hip-hop productions with the rest of the album cuts clocking under three minutes mostly, some under two minutes?
We felt as producers that a lot of hip hop was being made to such a formula and become so predictable it was almost boring, so we decided to change up the format as much as we could to try keep it interesting, keeping it short, and leave you wanting more. People's attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. We wanted to make the songs long enough to be songs but short enough not to hold the listeners interest for the entire song.
What was the inspiration for the funk feel of the beats/theme of this album?
I think we just wanted to make a good record. Which means starting with good beats. So if there was a theme at all, it was about making good beats that had some weight, enough to Quake the ground...haha
How do you stay up to date on the newest hip-hop out?
I try to check as much new stuff as I can. The Internet makes it easier that even to check stuff out in a moment. And have pees recommend new stuff you haven't heard yet. I have a few friends who are fiending for new sounds and artists so they often bring people to my attention. Geoff or Stu might be onto to different things they let me know about and visa versa.
There are tons of artists out here today, who are some of your favorite MCs and why?
That is a question were the answer will change depending on when you ask the question. Some of my favorite MCs are on this record actually. I’d say Guilty Simpson was on of my favs from the past 5 years. I was a NAS fan since back in the day. Doom is always dropping some heavyweight raps and his beats are kinda dope as well. Jonwayne and Coin Locker Kid are a couple of my new favs after being introduced to them through the making of Quakers.
Which hip-hop producers really impress you with their work?
I’m still a fan of the pioneers who paved the way, RZA, Primo, Prince Paul, Muggs etc and then the "next generation" cats like J Dilla and Madlib who impressed me with their creativity and direction.
How does the business of hip-hop effect what you create?
It can play a big part sometimes but for this record it played no role. We made this record for the music. Something we realized very few were doing in this day and age. And I think the record sounds the way it does because of it. Music for music’s sake.
Name a few of your top cuts from the album…
“Fitta Happier” of course, “Russia With Love” because I love that beat and think Coin Locker Kid is one of the most original MCs out there. “Soul Power”, really enjoyed recording that one with Dead Prez and they killed it on that tune. I could go on, but I'll stop at 3 (being a few).
What's the plan for showcasing this album live for stage shows?
We'll just take that as it comes. If there's a demand for a live show, We'll get lots of the MCs together and do a bunch of showcases for the album in the US and Europe. Simple as that really.