Monday, January 16, 2012

One Year Later...



My “Nowhere to Run” video was released a year ago today. It probably has more listens than the CDs I’ve put out over the last few years. People have asked me questions about it (and still do) but never quite fully understand what I’m talking about when I answer – sample clearance, mixtapes, beats, jackin’ for beats, hip hop references, etc. When I get the blank stare, I kind of wrap it up quickly. But I felt compelled to explain it in detail here. Frankly, I think those who read this blog would understand.

The original idea for this video was supposed to be the intro for my next CD, the one after The Last Amateur. The overall concept of the entire came from Danger Mouse’s legal issues from releasing The Grey album and the arrest of DJ Drama. I thought to myself, “I’d never get caught. I would take off running!”

The skeleton of the intro was to be composed of Ghostface’s “Run”, Cappadonna’s “Run”, Kool G. Rap’s “On The Run” (both versions), Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”, K-Solo’s “Fugitive” and some movie dialogue from the movie Primal Fear.




Because of the whole running thought, I wanted to also use N.W.A’s “100 Miles and Runnin’” but it didn’t seem to fit, as it was far more up-tempo than anything else I was planning to use in the intro.

So while all these ideas were milling around in my head, I found myself recording less and less because of the daily pressures of my job. Then I got laid off.



When I was issued my blue work uniform at my current job (10 days after being laid off!), I laughed to myself and thought of the "100 Miles and Runnin'" video.

A couple of weeks later, it was announced that Scribble Jam was being cancelled indefinitely. I shelved the idea of another CD and decided to put together a video as my music project instead.

I didn’t know what to use as the base for the track at first – I ended up using “100 Miles and Runnin'" because I had ideas in my head of how I wanted to flip the concept of the track. I remember seeing the video sometime after I had bought the album on cassette (!). The running scenes in the beginning of the video looked so hardcore and intense. I wanted somehow to replicate that intensity, but in a way more relatable to me.

I started with the beat – I had a copy of James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit Loose”, but it was really staticky and didn’t sound very good looped up. Plus, I was going to be inserting verbals from the N.W.A song, so I wanted the levels and sound to be consistent.

There was no open beat in “100 Miles and Runnin’”, and I didn’t have the 12-inch (was there even an instrumental for this?), so I looped up one bar from the intro (you can actually hear remnants of the siren over the beat) and laid down 48 bars to tape.



Started going through the actual song, listening closely to all the inserts that Dre used. The one sample I couldn’t find was the multiple stabs at the end of Dre’s first verse. I kept thinking it was from an MC Lyte song, but my search was fruitless.

I hesitantly called Dibbs and he snorted and referred me to Kevin Beacham, whom I wasn’t able to get hold of. And to be honest, I only tried once, because it felt like such a stupid question to ask.

A few lines from other songs that I incorporated:

“Gotta go…” and “Started packing the Gucci bags like I was going on a world tour” (the “Award Tour” sample insert just came to me – yes, I realize it’s “Award Tour” and not “a world tour” haha) from “On the Run”

“Do me a favor, don’t try to catch me…” from “DWYCK”

“I leave clue after clue, but they can’t catch me yet” from “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted"

There was one really dope line from Main Source’s “Fakin’ The Funk (original version)” that I really wanted to use, but it just didn’t fit: “When the shit hits the fan / I never run and never ran / ‘Cause that’s not part of the plan…” Maybe I'll use it somewhere else in the future.

So I mapped the beat out and composed in the same manner I do my mixtapes:



My brother-in-law Dante and my homie Aaron agreed to help out by filming some of the initial running scenes. I had a rough storyboard (really rough, don't laugh), but those scenes would be filmed later:



Dante's brother Glenn is a professional film editor who lives and works in New York. He was going to be in Cincy for a few days during Thanksgiving, so we scheduled some time when we could shoot some scenes if he wasn’t doing anything.

We spent about 4 hours shooting the work/running/driving scenes. I was honestly exhausted after all the running I did. The McRib scene was breaktime!

In a nod to Eazy’s Compton hat, I wore a black and white Cincinnati Cooperstown New Era, with the Olde English "C."



I went up to New York a couple of months later and Glenn and I edited the entire project together, second by second.

Kind of funny - I never liked the title "Nowhere to Run." I have this habit of being somewhat linear with naming things: Most track titles on my CDs are movie titles, my CD titles are references to book titles, and my blog posts are either song titles or lines from songs (the more recent ones, anyway).

Glenn was right about to finalize the file and said, "What's the title?" I thought of the Martha and the Vandellas insert and it happened to be a movie title, also.

Now I feel like I've explained everything without cutting it short.

Thanks for reading, and I'll be uploading a new track soon.

Note: Someone had mentioned to me (what up Forty!) how cool it was to have put my "mad-scientist chemical self" in the video. One of the motivations to do this project in the first place was to show that not all DJs are jet-setting, globe-trotting, up-in-the-club superstars. Some of us are regular guys with jobs and normal lives - who happen to be DJs.

John

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And I'm a Nikehead, I make tapes that excite the feds

With all the hype in the past couple of weeks about the Jordan XI retro release and the upcoming release of the IV in February…



I couldn’t believe that these were still boxed in my basement. I should probably just get rid of these at this point, they've been worn to death and are over 10 years old.

On another note, I've been spending time in the studio working on another short track. I hope to post it up here soon.

Hope everyone had a Happy New Year!

John