When the subject of reggae/dancehall mixtapes comes up one name comes to mind without hesitation: Oakland, CA’s Project Groundation Massive. Named 2006’s Best Mixtape DJ by the East Bay Express, DJ Child has been putting in work as a club DJ, rapper and mixtape DJ at various spots across the map. From exclusive mixtapes and DVDs to Vinyl releases and a clothing line, this man is definetly on top of his hustle. While too many reggae/dancehall mixtapes are filled with the same worn-out riddims and 7" singles, PGM’s mixtape series (currently over 30 releases deep) come packed with exclusive tunes, innovative blends, and soundbytes that leave you wondering when the next joint is gonna drop. After returning from a six week tour in Africa, Jamaica, Miami and Brooklyn, Child spoke to MNP about the reggae/dancehall mixtape game, the bay area reggae scene, his G4 and more…
Q: First off, tell us a little bit about how you got involved in the mixtape game.
A: I’ve been making mixtapes since pause and record shit on two tape decks. I started out just makin party tapes and would hustle them for $5. This is when I was still a little rapper, so I never looked at it as anything more than some extra dough and a way to get girls. From there the demand just grew and now I’m a grown ass man doing this shit for a living, travelling the world, working with artists that influenced me to get into this music, and breaking down walls in the industry that people said couldn’t be done.
Q: How did PGM come about?
A: Project Groundation is my life, there is no seperation. So everything is just a natural progession of my life. The Massive is my family. I only work with people that I stand behind not just as talented musicians, but as good human beings.
Q: After spending time in a lot of different locations like Brooklyn, Boston, Philly and Oakland what are some observations about the difference in the reggae and dancehall scene in these different areas? For example, in Boston and Brooklyn you have a large Jamaican and West Indian population, whereas on the west coast that population is less significant.
A:I grew up on the east coast my whole life. I didnt move to Oakland, CA till I was 25 years old. I spent my teenage years between North Philly, West Philly & Roxbury (Boston). All these spots got mad muthafuckas straight off the boat. I would go to spots to perform and be the only white dude in there. Half the time the bouncers wouldn’t even let me in... 1, cuz I had a bad fake i.d. and 2, cuz they wouldn’t believe that I was actually performing. Back east, people won’t hesitate to throw bottles at you if you wack... so you gotta earn respect... nothing is given. Cali’s reggae scene is way more of a hippy vibe. Festivals like Reggae on the River & Sierra Nevada World Music Festival are really what brings a lot of international attention to the area. As far as clubs go, I can’t tolerate it out here. For the most part, it’s a bunch of white dudes spittin jafakin and copying playlist from Irie FM.
Q: On that same note, what are some things you have taken from living in these different locations?
A: The code of the streets. Real is real all across the world.
Q: Why do you think that California, and particularly the Bay Area are such successful areas for reggae and dancehall in the US? When I was staying in the Bay for a few months I was really impressed by the popularity of the culture out there, especially when I compared it to my hometown, Dorchester (Boston).
A: The Bay is really culturally diverse for the West Coast. And in general, it has a lot of open-minded progressive thinkers. There's a deep history of culture, politics and religion from different movements that spawned in the 60’s and 70’s. There was the introduction of Eastern Thought & Religion, the Haight/Ashbury hippy acid explosion, the pimp game & the Black Panthers. My generation is the offspring of all of this. So for the most part, I would say culture is embraced in general out here. As for why reggae/dancehall is popular out here... good weather, good weed & people got $$$.
Q: PGM seems like a real grassroots organization as far as putting out good music without giving up much to the corporate aspects of the industry, what is the philosophy behind the company and what do you hope to achieve by putting out all this music?
A: Fuck the industry—We out to take this shit over. Like I said before, there is no separation between me and PGM, this is my life. So the philosophy behind everything is to strive for continual growth and realness. The word-sound that we put out is what we live. We make music for the streets... and we in them shits worldwide. PGM is a platform for the people’s voice.
DJ Child (Photo: Jeff St. Andrews)
Q: You do a lot of hip-hop remixes and blends on your mixtapes, could you touch on the relationship between hip hop and reggae/dancehall as you see it?
A: Hip-hop came from reggae. Kool Herc... 2 turntables & a microphone…You know how it goes. I ain't really tryin to do a history lesson here. But for me, hip-hop reggae crossover is just who I am. So I’m really just doin me. I grew up on hip-hop listening to Black Moon, Smif’n'Wesson, Boot Camp Click... that's a big influence on my sound. My boy Jah Dan from Noble Society is the dancehall artist from Boot Camp Click (Sounbwoy Burriel Remix). I must have listened to that track a couple thousand times, smokin blunts, riding my skateboard around the city. That shit was like the soundtrack to my youthood. 3 years ago I met Jah Dan through my bredren Moon of Lustre Kings. We’ve been brothers ever since. We actually just did 3 performances together this February in Mali, West Africa (big up to my family KSK, Kanaga System Krush). Dead Prez is another group that had a strong impact on me. I see them really as the epitomy of reggae hip-hop crossover. Their sound might not be that stylistically defined by reggae, but what they speak on is straight culture music. Me and M1 have a mixtape/dvd in the works called O.G. (Original Garvey), 100% all exclusive tracks with features from Damian Marley, Sizzla, Bushman, Half-Pint & more… Like I said before, I feel mad blessed to be working with so many artists that helped influence me not only as a musician, but also to become who I am as a person.
Q: What kind of equipment do you use for your remixes and your mixtapes?
A: 2 Technics 1210’s; NuMark CDX CD Turntable; Rane TTM 56 Mixer; Boss 404 Sampler; Pro Tools; Mac G4 Powerbook; Neumann TLM 193 mic; and Avalon 737 Pre-Amp.
Q: How do you think that the availability of computers and technology have effected the reggae/dancehall scene?
A: Computers have effected music in general. Now everybody is an artist, has a studio and a label. Vinyl is dead. Serato is every DJ’s bitch. And even cd’s are getting fucked off by digital dowloading. Times change and if you don't change with them, you gon’ get left behind. I base my entire business off my G4 (Mac, holla at your boy for a sponsorship playa). I’m 100% self-taught in Pro-Tools, Photoshop and Final-Cut (My boy Stat 7 actually taught me Final Cut... but 100% self-taught sounds better). I record all the exlusive music in my studio, do all the graphics for the mixtapes and promotions (flyers, posters, stickers etc.), am editing the 1st PGM DVD (featuring Lutan Fyah, M1 of Dead Prez, Bambu Station, Richie Spice, Pressure, Abijah, Jah Dan, GM5 Graffiti Crew, 510 Airbrush & more...), I am producing a clothing line & running the website all off of my G4. I love that shit. I embrace technology, but not to the point that it defines me. I’ve fucked with Serato before, but still choose to use vinyl. When I just went to West Africa I took 2 turntables, my mixer, 2 crates of 12"s and 1 crate of 7"s with me. 99% of the people there had never seen a turntable or a record in their life. I feel like it was my responsibility to the culture to do this, but I don’t think I’m better than anyone else cuz of this... again, I’m just doin me. Whether your a old school purist or a new school tech-nerd, if you pride yourself off your equipment, your fuckin corny. Real music is real music, period.
DJ Child (Photo: Frank Egel)
Q: Talk about some newer artists that you are feeling or that aren’t getting the attention that they deserve.
A: I don’t wanna offend any of my peoples by lumping them up in “new” or “undeserved attention” categories, so all artists I’m speaking on are people that I respect and am interested in putting my energy behind... new, old, popular or unknown. The first person I ever had host one of my mixtapes is Lutan Fyah. When we met in 2003 thru my family Lustre Kings, I only had 6 projects released and he had less than a dozen songs out... now we each got over 100 projects out. That's my brother for life. Other members of my camp that I’ve worked with and will continue to work with are Jah Dan, Sizzla, Pressure, Dead Prez, Lustre Kings Productions, Bambu Station, Richie Spice, Norris Man, Niyorah, Abijah, Batch, Natty King, Rankin Scroo, Zion High Productions, Ras Nyalas, Perfect, Lady Passion, Nick Fantastic, Noble Society, Ras Bumpa, Abja & Ras Attitude.
Q: What can we expect from PGM in the near future?
Q: How do you see the mixtape scene changing in the next few years?
A: DVD’s. You gonna have to have visuals to go along with the audio.
Q: Do you think the medium will remain in the streets or get started to get picked up by big labels?
A: Anybody who thinks mixtapes is a fad is delusional. Look at DJ Drama, Green Lantern, Kay Slay, Clue—they all doin major label shit. I’m not sayin that what they doin is gon’ be the blueprint of what's to come, but they’re opening necessarry doors for other peoples to get in. I don’t think that anyone of them has done a barcoded project that has been deemed successful by industry standards (no one’s gone platinum yet), but the peoples are gonna create a demand for them. America’s attention span is shit—we consumers... so 12 song albums are becoming unacceptable. The average hip-hop mixtape has between 20-35 songs and the average reggae/dancehall mixtape has between 40-70 tracks. When major labels can find a way to incorporate this into their standards, things are gonna change. Mixtapes will always be in the streets though. Your always gonna have someone whos gonna push themselves and their music by any means necessarry. And that's what this shit really represents... for me at least.
Q: What resources do you recommend for the next aspiring mixtape king?
A: If you don’t have a good hustle mentality, leave this shit to the next man. Mixtapes are completely oversaturated. Go to any city and you’ll see the same shit everywhere, the same DJ clones playin the same shit. Do something to establish yourself different from everyone else. Some key elements for a good mixtape are...
—Develop a camp. 2 is stronger than 1, 3 is stronger than 2.
—Get Exclusives. The more exclusive material you have on your product, the longer the shelf life your gonna have.
—Get your skills up. I ain’t sayin nerd out and practice triple-click flares all day... but make sure you doin somethin thats gonna make not only the peoples, but other DJ’s respect you.
—Presentation. Good graphics is gonna make your shit stand out from everyone elses.
—Marketing. Develop a street team to poster, flyer and sticker bomb your city.
—Hustle. Get in them streets bitches.
Q: Where can people cop your music?
A: www.projectgroundation.com, www.myspace.com/projectgroundation, and www.myspace.com/projectgroundationmassive
Article courtesy of Music.mnp / Words by Tristram Keefe & Ian T.|
Photo Jeff St. Andrews - courtesy of DJ Child
(Please do not reproduce without permission)