Ghetto Dai Lai Lama, the latest album from prolific Baltimore indie MC Labtekwon, features a track with club producer Booman called "Sex Machine." It's a mix of stabbing two-note synth riffs, looped "UNNHS!", a fake Rick James chorus and Lab's limber, fast raps - but what stood out to us even before all those thumping elements was the spoken intro, calling out "all these out of town fake DJs, fake producers - y'all wanna act like you're making Baltimore club, y'all making fake club!" We talked to Labetekwon over email about those sentiments, the making of "Sex Machine" and more. Read the convo after the jump, download the track in question here (right-click and save-as) and purchase Ghetto Dai Lai Lama here.
What made you call out "out of town fake DJs and fake producers" on the intro?
It gets really annoying when pop culture attempts to drain the freshness of an idea and dilute it to the point of being a bland and faint whisp of smoke compared to the original idea. I am tired of whack people setting standards and lowering the standards that always exist in any true artform. Mediocrity is a form of wickedness.
Could you elaborate about what exactly you feel has been "lowering the bar"?
To help cultivate something out of appreciation is one thing, to exploit something and take credit for it, or to try and validate it with an outside perspective is something else. Hip Hop has always looked down upon "beat biterz" and "dope style takerz". I am sure i dont need to use the obvious Hip Hop analogy to make my point. But, for the sake of discussion I will; folks liked Hip Hop and ended up spreading it all over the world, at the same time they eroded the very foundation of what Hip Hop really means; by lowering the standards so more outsiders could appreciate it. Now we in mainstream society have a very warped perspective of what Hip Hop really is. Commercialization can very often lead to a "watered down" version of the original, it's been the case in all forms of Black music in America.
Not long after an artform or regional aesthetic is exploited into the mainstream, it typically peaks at some point in popularity, then slowly dies to be replaced by the next trend. but when pioneers are established, then you can have different schools of style and approach within an artform; that allows styles to evolve beyond the "pop culture" status. Bmore is just being noticed by outsiders in the last couple of years. but this style has roots that go way beyond the "Think" loop. The bigger picture is more important than everybody trying to extrapolate and graft parts of what they think is dope. I am a gate keeper. It's cool, but every cat that claims to be down aint down and the real pioneers are responsible to call out the fakes. Imitation is flattery, but plagiarism is illegal. If people feel the music, the people who make it should benefit before someone from the outside profits. That's Block Policy and Hood Science - I am from around the way so thats how I see it.
What are the roots and bigger picture you think people should be more aware of?
My undergraduate studies in college were based on Black culture from antiquities to the present. One of my senior projects was "Traditional African Culture: Progenitor of Hip Hop Culture", I presented my research thru the Ronald E. McNair Summer Research Institute. I did symposiums on my research at Penn State and the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2004. My research suggests that the major cultural patterns that were tantamount to the model of "Traditional African" culture, are the same patterns that are the ethos and substance of Hip Hop culture and other forms of Black culture in the diasporas. Bmore Club Music is another example of my theory. Club Music is not just "get high, wild out" music. People use the music to dance and purge all the demons in their normal lives. We sweat our pain and sorrow out on the dancefloor to the tracks that now outsiders are just starting to notice. We use this music as a point of refuge and cleansing. This is the same purpose for music and dance in Traditional African culture. the culture around Baltimore Club Music is one that involves the quest for joy in the midst of urban plight. For a few hours these tracks enable some folks the chance to chase away fears and grief that no drug or material object could ever hope to do. Baltimore has a legacy in music because we were one of the main stops on the "Chitlin" circuit. Bmore has turned out great Soul Music since Billie Holliday to Doc Soul Stirrer to Club Music. Pennsylvania Avenue was once a Mecca for Black entertainment for many years. This is our legacy. The northernmost city of the south and the southernmost city of the north. We are the city of slick.
Basically, the bigger picture with Club Music, it is soul music for dancers. It is a escape and release music. It ain't for poppin collars, pimpin, frontin, stuntin or whatever shit catz want to do at the club other than dance. This is some James Brown meets Bambaata type shit.
What producers do you feel are underappreciated?
I feel Booman and Jimmy Jones are the most underappreciated, then you got DJ Class and a few others that set the table for what is being done now. The thing is, the new producers have not surpassed the pioneers. Mainly because the pioneers are still blazing trails. Let the originators be heard, then everybody can have a fair perception of what is the truth for this style of music.
What's been the response to "Sex Machine" so far from other MCs and DJs?
I really dont ask people alot about it, but I can say those that have repsonded have been kinda going crazy. Folks seem to really feel it.
How did you link up with Booman, and what was your process like
collaborating on the song? Have you worked on tracks with any other
I am from Bmore. I grew up here as an emcee, b boy and graf writer. So everybody that is connected to that root and bears fruit from it, I have been in contact with since 1986. We all went to the same clubs, we all grew up at the same time, we all got into the business at the same time. The Maker Profaze and I sampled and edited drums from old and new records and made drum kits for the Ensoniq samplers back in 1991. I gave Boo some of the original sounds for the Ensoniq EPS 16+ that are now what helps define the classic Bmore club sound. Shawn Caesar was in high school when I met him at Club Fantasy, Scotty B was DJing at Godfreys, I taught both of them dudes how to use the EPS 16+, cuz we are all one family. Even though I didnt make the actual tracks and music, I contributed to my musical community in Bmore from the genesis of this style called Club Music. I used to rhyme at Club Fantasy in Bmore over club tracks back in 1988 and 1989. Boo and Jimmy Jones were at the same clubs, at the same time. We are a family and a community, we are all connected from the root. Thats how it is and outsiders cant bite the style without repsecting the foundation and the pioneers.
What were your goals with this new CD, and what did you have in mind
creatively before recording?
We are going to represent the authentic version of our styles of music. "Sex Machine" is an example of Bmore style, banging beats and slick ass dudes that spit game with no effort. The rest of the album deals with various aspects of the Black experience. The theme is that those that usually dont hear the message, could get it in a way they could appreciate. The ghetto Dai Lai Lama.
Whats your take on the rap scene in Baltimore right now?
Bmore is unique and there is alot of quality art yet to come from Bmore Hip Hop. At the same time, just like any other city, Hip Hop is seen as a way to come up. Almost like its a lottery or something. Folks think they can just will themselves into being nice. But thats more the result of pop culture.
What local artists and tracks are you feeling?
Megan Livingston's whole mixtape
Artifact Hearts Volume 1
Sparrow - all their internet songs, especially the song "Grace"
Brown Fish - all their joints
Chinchilla - Murdaland Volume Won - Classic Jack Moves
TAMU - internet joints
Killa Kamillions - 93 Million Miles and Rising