Oct 21, 2009
INTERVIEW: DJ Mike Nice
SEARCHING FOR CHET BAKER: Tell people who you are, and what is the Digger's Union?
DJ MIKE NICE: DJ Mike Nice a/k/a the King of Da Crates a/k/a Mr Throwback is both a DJ and producer as well as the A&R and CEO of Venom Records. One cool and humble cat who respects the art and craft of Hip Hop and whos vinyl collection is out of control lol. The Diggers Union is an elite crew of "diggers" which I was welcomed into by DJ Unexpected. We them cats who dig up them joints you ain't ever heard.
SFCB: When it comes to samples, there are a couple different views that people take. One is that samples should not be disclosed, and people should do their own work and find them themselves. The other is that everyone should be able to know what they are, and that it spotlights artists from the past, bringing them new attention. I know that personally I'm a "I want it now" type person where I want to know what a particular sample is. However, I've also been on the other side where after hearing Biggie's "Bust a Nut" (and later a track by Rufus Blaq) I spent at least six years tracking down the sample used, because the liner notes only had the writer of the track, but not the artist. And I remember the feeling I had when I finally found it and it was great. What's your opinion on this?
DJMN: I do not disclose samples go out and dig for them yourself. Digging is an artform of its own. Cats do not understand the time and effort and health risk that go into the work that us diggers do. Searching in dank dusty mold infested basements going through old 45's and LPs searching for a rare groove than waking up the next day feeling sick. If a sample is very common, say like "In Between The Sheets", than you have no choice than to disclose it when it comes to dropping an offical release.
SFCB: This past year you released two great mixtapes, "Nas: Please Listen to my Demo" and "Common: For All Seasons" which are made up of demos and unreleased rarities. I think the great thing about this is that you have these tracks from way back in the beginning, and you can trace the evolution of a great rapper, and in the case of Nas, often listed as one of the top five rappers in hip hop history. Tell us about the construction of these projects.
DJMN: Thank You I'm glad you enjoyed them. Ive been collecting Nas tracks since I first received Illmatic nearly 6 months before it officially dropped. I had 1st heard Nas spit with Main Source and than droppin with Serch. When I got that advance of Illmatic and was blown away I set out on a quest to collect everything he ever appeared on. Through various connections his demo tape fell in my hands and that allowed me to barter for other jewelz and gems. We talking pre internet when cats would link up face to face and swap tapes. The Nas project is definitely one of my personal favorites and it traces the growth of an MC. The Common "For All Seasons" was something Dimez asked me to construct. I had lots of unreleased and demo material on Common but in all honesty never felt like making a Common mixtape. I thank Dimez for encouraging me to make the tape as it went on to be a real dope joint that I play on the regular when I want to cool out. 90% of the time I prefer to listen to "golden era feeling" razor blade rap that gutta street shit scuffed timbs and hoodys. Nothing better than that ol boom bap sound.
SFCB: What's your prize find as it concerns digging? Something that took you the longest to find?
DJMN: hmmmm. 1985 Wyndanch High School 16 year old Rakim aka Kid Wizard rhymin with Biz on the beat box. Ra spits verse that would eventually become My Melody.
Kool G Rap demos are also up there.
SFCB: What is that one thing that has eluded you?
DJMN: 1. The Love Brother tapes - this is early recording sessions of Rakim & DJ Homicide. The God was like 15 16 years old when he did these tapes. 2. Slick Rick & Doug E Fresh "Its Hard to Get a Job" this was recorded likely around the same time as The Show. Biz Markie has the above joints. Biz get at me if you want to trade. I can get you another Fire Breathing Godzilla toy. No shit the joint honestly shoots real fire. and 3. them lost B.I.G joints "Flip that Shit" BIG ft Onyx & 3rd Eye (version1), "Flip that Shit" BIG ft Naughty By Nature & 3rd Eye(version2), "BIG UP ITS A STICK UP" BIG ft O.D.B, 3rd Eye & LS from Rumpleskilskinz
SFCB: what is your favorite sample or break, and why?
DJMN: Daisy Lady. Just go and listen to it. I smile whenever I hear that break.
SFCB: I understand you are a big fan of Notorious B.I.G. While there are obviously some great B.I.G. mixtapes out there, do you think the oversaturation of Biggie tapes out there, hurt his legacy in the sense of, even when we get some jewels released, such as the demos on the Notorious Soundtrack, that it may not have the impact it would have otherwise. The same can be said for Tupac, and how more "albums" have been released since his death, than he released while he was alive.
DJMN: Dog being a big fan is an understatement. I own his original Uptown Contract. Yes signed by Andre Harell and Christopher Wallace. When you drop a Biggie joint you have to hit em in the head with shit people ain't ever heard before. Its way to simple for me to make a B.I.G tape with just his classics. And for the record they fucked up on the soundtrack with Microphone Murderer they edited the intro. People the true title is known worldwide as the "Blind Alley Freestyle". The difference with Pac is dude was a studio rat he turned out record after record. Pac's catalouge is something like 400 + songs. Bottom line if the labels are going to release unreleased recordings I think its dope, just no more greatest hits.
SFCB: What is your opinion on the act of paying to clear samples? I think there are a surprisingly high number of hip hop fans that don't realize that A. sample clearances aren't free and B. the repercussions for not clearing them. The most infamous example of that, for me, is the situation with Peter Gunz & Lord Tariq's track "De Ja Vu (Uptown Baby)". From what I understand, due to them not clearing the sample of Steely Dan's "Black Cow", they ended up not earning a dime from that record, despite it's popularity, after their label had to pay off Steely Dan.
DJMN: Sometimes there is no way around it and you have to get the joint cleared. As a producer who sample you should do your homework and know which artist work you should never touch unless you don't care about making any loot back or losing publishing. Their are other tricks to the art of sampling but that's up to you to find them. Certain cats refuse to give the green light for hip hop projects. ie Steely Dan situation. Sting gets like 80% of publishing if you choose to sample him.
SFCB: Do you still DJ shows, and what's your biggest gig you've done?
DJMN: I haven't done a show in a minute but several live venues are planned for the new year. Largest gig I did was back in 92 in Switzerland nearly 10,000 + for hip hop/rave.
SFCB: Hip Hop today seems so light years away from what it was back in the mid-90's. Why do you think that is, and what do you think it's gonna take to get back to that? Or does it NEED to get back to that type of hip hop?
DJMN: Major record labels allowed too many YES men in the A&R positions. Cats were given deals because who they knew at the label or they were friends of a major artist. Once you let SHIT IN and labels put money behind it and put it in the streets people start to believe the hype. Another thing is the drug game funded many so called artist careers. Money can make things happen and make other buy into the hype. Ever realize today everyone wants to be an MC. A&R men need to grow some balls and tell these cats YOUR SHITS WHACK, YOU WILL NOT MAKE IT, and stop signing the current trend. Make quality music and stop with the bullshit songs and ring tone rap.
SFCB: What projects do you have planned for 2009?
DJMN: I have several mixtapes droppin Brooklyn Bullshit - JAY Z, KANE, B.I.G demos unreleased, Once Upon a Time in Harlem - Legendary DJ Showtime and myself pay tribute to BIG L as it marks the 10th year of his passing. Unreleased & Demos, I Declare War - DJ MIKE NICE & KOOL G RAP - possibly the most violent mixtape ever to be released
Thank you very much, Mike.