Archive for March, 2010

South Asian CNN: a message from Chee Malabar / Himalayan Project

Chee Malabar is part of the group Himlayan Project out of California. He was born in India and moved to San Francisco as a teenager, tuning into the hip hop sounds that were around him. These days, Chee is working on his next album ‘The Burning Tire Artisan’ and is a part of that, unfortunately, rare breed of MCs who use their art to get a message across.

His music sure reached me..I hope it does the same for you. Keep up with his thoughts at the Himalayan Project blog.


Who’s involved in Himalayan Project? What’s your mission as artists?

Himalayan Project consists of Rainman and myself, and by extension, our producers, Zeeb and Scott. We’ve made 3 full length albums together.  Zeeb and I have also recorded 2 albums under ‘Oblique Brown’–where he handled all the production and I was the sole emcee.

I don’t know if we have a specific mission, but I guess it has always been about making truthful music and being honest to our experiences as young men in America.

Your lyrics are meaningful and poetic – do you feel it’s important to get things off your chest when you’re speaking to an audience?

Sure.  I view music as a tool for self expression and the hope is that in my music perhaps someone can find their own lives reflected in some small way. I never want to talk down to my audience and say “hey, here look and listen to me”. It’s about finding those common threads that make us all human and the hope is that I can make someone relate or perhaps offer a different prism to view their lives through, even for a brief moment.

How do you feel about musicians such as Public Enemy, The Last Poets or Gill Scott-Heron who pushed a message with their music at the time? Is that still relevant to you in 2010?

I love Public Enemy and The Last Poets. Their music, along with artists like Ice Cube, The Coup, and Paris made me listen really close and examine they way I thought about the world.  As far as its relevance, I think it all comes down to where the listener is at in their own lives. And of course, if the music is good, it’s relevant. The message alone can’t trump the sonic aspects of said record. But yes, I do have a soft spot for artists who offer alternative messages in their art.

In what way is hip hop important to you as an alternative type of media?

Hip Hop is what piqued my interest in the wider world.  When I fell into it, I began to view the world through my fave rappers eyes. I see the power it has over the teens and young adults I work with. At its best, it is a great jumping off point for diving into the larger world and examining society, and perhaps now more than ever, the global world.

What about ‘spoken word poetry’: are there any poetry slams or similar events that you’re involved in?

I’m involved with a non profit called ‘Street Poets, Inc.‘  I hold writing workshops at youth correctional facilities and we do put on monthly spoken word events.

You have also given lectures at university on race and identity, is that your day job? What did you recently speak about in class? Have you learnt a lot yourself from the teaching experience?

I don’t necessarily give lectures. I’ve been blessed in that our music has made their way into some college curriculum and lesson plans and the often we get invited by professors and universities to perform and speak.  My most recent enagements were at Bard College and UCLA and we spent a good deal of time discussing identity formation through hip hop and the various complexities of race relations. I’ve learned an immense amount about myself, for sure.

I have learned a great deal from the people I’ve met, about their varied experiences, and in turn, it inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing.

What can you tell us about your own family heritage and South Asian background / growing up in San Francisco? Was there a lot of music around, how did you get interested in MCing and writing?

I immigrated to the States when I was almost 12 to San Francisco. Almost everyone in my neighborhood and school listened to hip hop music and so it was natural that I’d listen as well. I got interested in emceeing because it was a cheap alternative to purchasing a guitar or any music instrument. Listening to emcees like Ice Cube, Paris, Hiero, and Digable Planets was key for me.  I wanted to tell my own story and they made me feel that I was okay to do so.

Would you describe yourself as a political person, hence the a.k.a. ‘The Burning Tire Artisan’?

I’m not sure that I’m a ‘political’ person.  I’m interested in learning about society.  I’m interested in learning about people at the margins of society.  Being an immigrant and having had my own struggles and then being exposed to tools to talk about it, has made me lean towards examining it in my music and life.

What are some of your favourite records?

Most recently I’ve been listening to ‘Fair & Kind’–A Little Past Twilight and Ardamus’ ‘When Everything Goes Wrong’.  Both are good friends of mine, but I think they’ve made really great records.
I’m also diggin’ Jay Electronica’s music.
As far as my all time faves: ‘No Need for Alarm’: Del, “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted’: Ice Cube, “Illmatic”: Nas, “Soul on Ice”: Ras Kass, “Blueprint”: Jay-Z

What’s Chee Malabar up to next?

I’m finishing up a record with Ali Abidi entitled ‘The Burning Tire Artisan’…and I’m also doing a record with Scott Koozner who had his hand in all the HP stuff..and hopefully this year another Oblique Brown album.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks for supporting us. Check for the Oblique Brown and Himalayan Project albums if you haven’t peeped them yet.  They’re available on iTunes. Also, be on the lookout for Chee Malabar’s ‘Burning Tire Artisan’ LP. Thanks for your time.


March 28, 2010 at 16:11 Leave a comment

Murs & 9th Wonder «the problem is»

March 25, 2010 at 10:53 Leave a comment

Good track, but too much product placement.

March 25, 2010 at 10:37 Leave a comment

BOOOOMMmm: DJ Spinna drops a bomb

March 24, 2010 at 18:58 Leave a comment

Four years ‘development’ / DJ Spinna interview

While we’re at it, here’s some more good stuff from Manchester: the peeps at development have done a wicked interview with DJ Spinna, who is playing their fourth birthday bash alongside Osunlade this weekend (at Sound Control).

Exclusively (yeah, that’s right), we’re quoting some of the best bits here. For your fix of phonic tonic, head back to their blog.

Nice1 deep cats!


You recorded the hip hop album ‘Sonic Smash’ last year, which was fantastic. How much of your time in the studio is devoted to Hip Hop these days?

It’s hard to balance the two but I would say I’m doing more dance records these days as it pays the bills and there’s also less politics involved in that scene. I also enjoy the end result much more, from the studio straight to the dance floor. With hip hop it’s just not the same.

Hip hop has changed a lot over the last few years with a very different sound making it through to the mainstream, what are your thoughts on the genre right now?

As for the mainstream it’s pretty bad, not much innovation there. I’ve always remained underground because of this. With that said I feel like the realness is dead in the mainstream world. There’s still good hip hop out here but most of it remains underground as usual. I miss the early 90’s when quality hip hop like Gangstar or Tribe were mainstream. Those days are over. The genre has made too much money and the soul is gone.

J Dilla or Michael Jackson?

No comparison. Two different kinds of legends for their own reasons. Michael being the greatest entertainer of all time and J Dilla being the most innovative and progressive thinking producer of this generation. There will never be icons like these again in this lifetime.

Your style always seems to cover a lot of genres, from Stevie Wonder to Sade through to Hip Hop to Techno etc……. what music don’t you like?

I don’t like Death Metal, makes me want to slit my wrist and it gives me a stomach ache.

Tell us about Stevie and what he means to you?

Stevie is the ultimate humanitarian artist. His music reflects love and peace, and his voice is golden. But in the 70’s he was super funky and his production was innovative and way ahead of it’s time for that era. If you listen closely to some of his recordings you can hear everything from the talk box, to Hare Krishna choirs, apregiating moogs, sick drum programming and sampling before the general listener knew what these things were. The water drops instead of finger snaps on “Overjoyed” for example, who thinks of this? And that was 1986!

New York seems to have lost a lot of record stores over the last few years, where are your favorite digging spots in your home town and what is the most treasured 12″ in your vast and highly respected collection?

My two favourite spots to dig are Academy Records and Big City Records. One of my most treasured 12″‘s is Stevie Wonder’s As. It was only legitimately pressed as a German Motown Promo with a picture sleeve. It was never commercially released as a 12″ in the States or any where else in the world and it’s stupid rare and expensive.

Tell us something we probably don’t know about you…

I am a home body. Don’t go out much these days. I’m not impressed by much and I prefer to be home working or chilling with the fam. Sometimes my wife has to give me a swift kick in the butt (figuratively speaking) to get out and live a little.

March 24, 2010 at 15:31 Leave a comment

How to dig up a rare Beatminerz release: Chubby Grooves / Chopped Herring Records

Chubby Grooves has been steady rocking Manchester’s independent music circles for more than a decade and worked as a DJ for many years. He used to play at the Hacienda club and was resident DJ at the much-celebrated Headfunk night. Chubby runs the Chopped Herring Records label – you’ll find lots of history and fishy sounds here.

He is also known as ebay trader bruceforsight aka recording artist Pro Celebrity Golf. I first found out about his label in 2002 when I picked up a copy of the Jay Glaze 12 inch, Out To Lunch.

No bones about it, this chopped herring is more than a little wacky and out of the ordinary – no wonder he’s mates with MC Paul Barman. He lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn for many years,  hung out at D&D Studios(<shazzam>) and hooked up with the Beatminerz. Their unreleased Pandemonium EP with classic 1990s material has just dropped on Chopped Herring.

One more thing: hear his advice on how to snap up some mint condition vinyl online. Oh, and before I forget – here’s what he looks like in his Sunday Best…

(CG: “Actually, it was one of the pictures used for the inside cover of ‘three sinister syllables’…a LAME mexican kids TV star called Chubelo!! when I dropped 3ss I gave stores the original record cover (I had about 50 copies from a massive Latin stash I found in 2001) to put in the vinyl racks to advertise the CD…..shit is silly.”)


Tell us a little bit about your time in Bushwick, Brooklyn: what was it like living there as a Mancunian?

Well, first off, I am not a Mancunian. I moved to Manchester in 1991 and stayed until around 2005. I was one of many people involved in the Manchester music scene of the mid 90s that came from outside of Manchester. Between 2005 and 2009 I was living between London and NYC. Before that I used to go to NYC a couple of times a year to find wax. I used to crash on the sofa of a kid who had lived next door to me in Rusholme (Manchester). He had dual citizenship and had moved to NYC in about 1998. When he moved out to the west coast in 2005 I had to find a new place to stay! I went back out to NYC with a laptop and few contacts.

I stayed at the YMCA in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and looked for a cheap house share situation. Managed to hook up with some cool cats who lived in an (illegal) loft space literally on the border of Ridgewood, Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn. That was my first experience of that part of NY.

What has New York got in terms of music that Manchester hasn’t, and vice versa?

Manchester and NYC do have many things in common in relation to music. Both have a large West Indian/Caribbean community. ‘Black music’ has always been a major influence on the Manchester music scene; from the Northern Soul movement in the 1970s up to the present day and the same can be said of NYC.

Both cities have many transients that have made them culturally vital music scenes and both have a background in Industry. The key difference for me is that NYC has a strong South/Central American influence. From producers to musicians to BBoys, Hispanics had contributed heavily to the New York music scene the 70s/80s. This adds another dimension for me and something that makes NYC music more colourful and distinctive.

You must have heard a lot of good music in your time living there, which hip hop heads did you hook up with? Any memorable concerts or gigs that stick in your mind?

Connections always began with the vinyl. My first introduction into the New York scene was through selling vinyl. I took the early Chopped Herring Records releases into the stores and did some cold calling. At that time Eclipse (Non Phixion) and Breeze (Juggaknots) worked in Fat Beats. I would hit them up with the Jay Glaze 12s to get them on the racks and sometimes even did some guerilla planting! Breeze gave us our first ‘Chopped Herring section’ in a NYC record store.

I also used to hit up Sound Library (when it was on 1st Ave) to trade and sell UK breaks, library and funk pieces. Then, through the success of ‘Three Sinister Syllables‘ I hooked up with the likes of MC Paul Barman who introduced me to a bunch of cats. Also I met more heads looking for wax in the city. I ran into Evil Dee around 2000 in a thrift store in Queens looking for flava and a load more producers and MCs in ‘The Thing’ in Greenpoint and ‘Beat Street’ in Fulton Mall. Just being there, looking for vinyl and promoting Herring allowed me to get to know more cats on the scene.

How did the Beatminerz release come about, some unreleased gems on Chopped Herring Records? Who pulled the strings and what can you tell us about the record?

As I mentioned above I met Dee in the basement of a thrift store about 10 years ago. I got reintroduced to him and his brother Mr Walt when a New York collector and producer called Nobs told me about them selling their collection. I met Nobs online originally and we became digging buddies.

We would go to flea markets and share record spot info. (By the way he just dropped an album with an MC called Dez that is hella-nice!!). So I started buyin wax and deadstock from Walt. Walt produced and funded the Shadez of Brooklyn projects. They had released 3 singles on his label Pandemonium Wreckords but the rest of the material hadn’t been put out. They recorded that stuff at the time when Walt and Dee (Da Beatminerz) had a room at D&D studios in NYC.

There were only 2 permanent rooms at D&D, one was theirs and the other was inhabited by DJ Premier. Walt hooked me up with Da Dysfunkshunal Familee‘s Crazy DJ Bazarro and Finsta (Finsta Bundy and original member of Black Moon). I released the 2 Dysfunskhunal EP’s with Bazarro and the Shadez of Brooklyn EP with the help of Walt and Dee who owned the masters.

None of this would’ve happened without the help of my man Nobs. Props Son!!

What else have you got in the works in terms of upcoming releases?

Due to the success of the Dysfunkshunal EPs in 2009 I’ve had hardcore headz come to me with suggestions of other unreleased projects and contact info. So I have a few ILL unknown/little known projects from the 90s to drop.

As with all these pre-order style releases I keep the info undercover right up until the day I drop the pre-order info. So I can’t say ANYTHING!! But I will be concentrating on lost Indy Hip Hip, with attitude and with a good amount of breaks and samples. So look out for some more 90s flava soooooooon.

You are an avid crate digger and ebay bargain-hunter – from personal experience, have you got a few hints of advice on how to snatch up good condition vinyl on the web?

Well, the obvious difference between diggin and scorin wax online is the condition. This is the same as any secondhand buyin; you need to feel/touch the merchandise to know the full picture. There are some ways to reduce the risk though.

Stick to certain reputable sellers. Forums should help when trying to exclude dubious sellers (and even good sellers gone bad). Feedback on Ebay or Discogs will help. Also, developing good relationships with big sellers. If a record isn’t up to the described standard then, if you are tight with a dealer you can return it. You just have to use your head and like with anything, be prepared to take a loss in order to really score over time. It’s a marathon. And, don’t expect perfection; just appreciate it when it comes along!

What was one of your recent vinyl best-buys? Any favourite record shops?

Hmmmm. Was in Florida in January. Found a bunch of stuff from a guy who used to have a radio show up in Buffalo (upstate NY). Was a bunch of original Jamaican pressings from the 70s as well as a load of avant-garde Jazz ish. It got the blood pumpin!

Stores? Not so much anymore. I used to go to NYC specifically to go to ‘The Thing‘. I used to leave that place with 100s of pieces every trip, before it got hot and they hired staff that knew what was up. In the early 2000s before the Random/Indy heat it was amazing. It’s owned by the dude that owns A1 in Manhattan. It was supposed to be stuff that couldn’t sell in A1 but they made NUMEROUS mistakes. So many that I could run my whole business off the back of it for a few years.

Manchester has lots of record shops and always had a good infrastructure for music – you came up in that environment of an emerging independent music network, the Hacienda etc. What was that like? Was it really an endless party as its been portrayed in films / the media?

Well I wouldn’t have set up my own label if it wasn’t for those Manchester years. It was, at many times in modern music history a hot city for music. For American House music (Hacienda) before I arrived and for Hip Hop (Fat City – where I worked for about 5 years) as I got up there. In the 70s for Northern Soul and 80s for Alt/Indie stuff.

It seems tho’ that every time the media got onto it it would die for another 5 years. The media attention always kills the vibe. But also that attention would create a reaction and a deepening commitment from the underground. I guess it depends if you’re concerned with profile or with quality (rebel) music.

Did you ever get annoyed with the hip hop ‘scene’ in England, or do you prefer homegrown sounds?

Yes. Peep the track ‘Homegroan’ on the second vinyl release on Chopped Herring Records, Staunch Liaison EP. I had a lot to say about that subject. Now it’s old news and isn’t such a focus for me. It’s generally very healthy (creatively) to dislike whats going on around you at any given time. It breeds originality – which is vital.

Are you a football fan? If so, who do you support? Any preference for City or United?

I’m an Arsenal fan. Since I was a kid. Growing up in North London you were either Arsenal or (wretch) Spurs. My grandad and cousins were always into the Arsenal. I inherited that from them. The first match I went to was in 1983.

Re: City/United. Well, while I was living in Manchester it was City. But since I got out of town and the big money turned up at City, I hate both equally!! It has been and always will be all about the Arse.

Any last words or shouts?

Props to all the cats that buy Herring wax, DWG and VA cats, Nobs, Da Beatminerz, DJ Bazarro, MC Paul Barman, Chopps Derby, Memory Man and all the heads that don’t take shit too seriously but drop serious shit, ONE GLOVE.


March 24, 2010 at 10:28 Leave a comment

Manchester music / Pitch «def»

March 21, 2010 at 16:45 Leave a comment

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