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DJ Babu : IPMM Exclusive Interview

Written by:
Evan La Ruffa
Apr 19, 2010

Photo by By Rohdd

If you know what’s good, DJ Babu is pretty much the gold standard in hip hop. Having proven himself amongst seasoned veterans like Dilated Peoples and the Beat Junkies, it’s been clear for over a decade that Babu would remain relevant. Hip hop is notorious for disposing DJ’s, MC’s, and producers who don’t have the hustle to match their talent, but the undertow went unnoticed by Babu. The big-deal began with Super Duck Breaks in 1996, and has lived on through Babu’s most recent release, The Beat Tape Vol. 2. His latest contribution bumps from front to back, exhibiting the versatility and headiness we’ve come to expect from him. Additionally, the samples he chose to employ verify his style as an innovative and dynamic producer. As a beat connoisseur, you can’t help but revel in the aesthetic – West Coast to the bone, laced with perfect melodies and harmonies, and skillfully crafted into a well-balanced release. Babu is a beat-alchemist who’s experience is tiered and textured, having burst onto the scene amidst DJ culture, and evolving to become one of the foremost figures of the craft, working with up-and-coming MC’s, and welcoming a new age of hip hop.

In a world where cd’s are outmoded, mp3’s are taken, and the vinyl market is expanding, it takes a creative cat to facilitate his own success. For people like Babu who are road-tested and have succeeded in the major label game, the forward motion of the industry is more than apparent. To survive, you have to evolve, and DJ Babu has done just that. By taking on the world of social networking and interactive media, he’s enabled an open stream of communication with his fan base, not only proving his dedication to his art, but also to those of us who crank the beats and let them make us feel good. As all lifelong learners, Babu remains humble while he feeds his insatiable urge to see what’s coming around the bend. Babu drops knowledge on his new record, the business side of the game, and divulges his latest vinyl purchases, now, on IPMM.

– by Evan La Ruffa


Evan:

I’ve been bumpin that Beat Tape Vol. 2 since it dropped, I’m definitely feelin’ it…

BABU:

Thank you so much…

E:

Def man, I heard you had a dope release party in LA…it definitely seems you’ve been having fun getting this record out there…

BABU:

Yea yea, the whole campaign for this beat tape has been really fun and exciting, and just a blessing in general. I’ts probably the best vibe I’ve gotten from the press and the internet in a while. I really can’t complain. The short movies I posted on Youtube has really opened up a lot of people to what I’ve been doing, it just kinda puts a visual tilt to what I do. Ya know, but I’ve just been grateful that people have been peepin’ what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working at the production side of things for a while, but ya know, people know me as the DJ from Beat Junkies or Dilated, comin’ out of the battles and being a turntablist and all this other stuff, and the production thing has kinda been an uphill battle, but I feel like I’m starting to bear some of the fruits of my labor. This year has been really exciting so far.

E:

Dope man, yea I mean, it’s (Beat Tape Vol. 2) great start to finish, but a few tracks that caught my ear were “Ready” “Forever” and “Reneg“…..

BABU:

Those are some of my favorite cuts off the album…

E:

There are a lot of sick melodies on there, and one thing I think you do so well is play on great vocal samples…but what kinda stuff did you find yourself sampling when you were gettin’ shit together for The Beat Tape Vol. 2?

BABU:

I just think the range of stuff I’m working with is broader. I think my net just widened. I don’t really want to get relegated to a genre of records. I’m really just a mode to mode, or beat to beat person, like I said, I’m really not trying to be defined by the genre of sample that I’m using. I’m really attracted to melodies and harmonies, but ya know, I’m just tryin’ to get better at what I’m doing. Yea man, I’m a record fool…

E:

Do you ever wonder what you’d be doing if you weren’t being a DJ or making beats?

BABU:

I’ve always been a creative person, whether it was being younger and being able to draw well, and later on, being attracted to skateboarding and all that technique. But I think I’d be doing something creative if it wasn’t for music, maybe I’d end up in graphics or film…I dunno, I guess I got lucky. I just caught the hip hop bug early and it was something I could never shake. But doing these short films and messin’ with another medium has opened me up to feeling like I wanna learn how to do more, and the means by which I create is really interchangeable. I definitely love being a creative person.

E:

How do you think new media has changed the dynamic of how you interact with your fans?

BABU:

I learned a lot about business from my guys Rakaa and Evidence. Both of them taught me a lot. Back then, we were signed to a major but we were really independent. We purposely kept our vinyl (sales) separate, and even really early on, Rakaa was very in-tune with us needing to have a website. Even after that, we joined OK Player and tried to do things where we personally interacted with the fanbase.

We’ve (Dilated) always done a lot of our own social networking, whether it be Facebook or Twitter. And as artists, as much as we’re trying to sell music, it’s more about people being down with your movement. And for an artist like myself, it means everything to have a small but strong army behind me helping me do what I do. I gotta make my own lanes, and I embrace what’s going on, the sky’s the limit, I’m my own boss, and I feel blessed to be relevant. I’ve been lucky enough to be associated with crews that have been smart enough to be able to maneuver and adapt and adjust to the ways that the game is now. I think it’s something that goes back to my philosophy, which is to always be a student. The minute you start sayin’ “I know this, I know that,” is the moment you start falling the fuck off. I still feel like a kid, I’m still excited about what I do every day and I’m just out here having fun.

E:

Down to the nitty gritty mang. What’s your favorite coffee shop in Amsterdam?

BABU:

Definitely, #1 is The Dampkring, shout out to my man Jason over there, that crew is like family whenever we come to town, they always take such good care of us. There are some other people over there, some LA cats that are runnin’ shit…LA weed is just destroying the world right now. I have to admit, last time I was in Chicago I smoked some really bomb ass weed. I was pleasantly surprised.

E:

What was the last record you bought?

BABU:

I got some stuff at the record festival at SXSW, also just got the new Erykah Badu, and Madlib Medicine Show.

E:

So what’s up with Duck Season Vol. 4?

BABU:

I think you really need to give people something special, so with that being said, the Duck Season is gonna be a dope package. I’ve still got a few tracks to finish, and then I can be focused on the production. I wanna include instrumentals and videos, throw some Dilated/Junkies slipmats in there, make a nice package for people, like a real collector’s kinda thing that you want to have. I’m definitely trying to give people as much as I can, I’d love to do something like a picture disc or something too.

E:

Is a release date set?

BABU:

I don’t want to get ahead of myself yet, but Duck Season Vol. 4 is definitely coming out sometime this year. And along with that, look out for Rakaa and Evidence’s new joints, and hopefully we’ll see this new Dilated record for sometime in 2011.

Stay on Babu’s radar on Myspace Facebook, and Twitter

And on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/DJBABUFOREAL

Check out more interviews on IPMM, and be sure to swing by the Music section.

Written by:
Evan La Ruffa
Apr 19, 2010

tags: babu, beats, dilated peoples, duck tape, evidence, hiphop, instrumentals, iriscience, los angeles, rakaa