Last spring I was conducting an intertview with a local product, Christopher”Deep” Henderson, who had “done grow’d up and made his mama proud.”
During the course of the interview he said something that really stuck with me.
He had just returned from a trip to NYC, where he and 24 others had been honored as the industry‘s best producers. (He clocked in at a very respectable number fifteen on the list. Some cat named Puffy was sittin’ at number sixteen by the way.)
Anyway, the quote that had been rattlin’ around in all of the empty space between my ears went a little something like this:
A common saying at the (record) labels is, “give me a singer from L.A. or an MC from the Bronx, but I want a producer from Virginia.”
As far fetched as that may sound, when you sit down and think about it, who would blame them for thinking that way? Teddy Riley, of Guy & BLACKstreet fame, pretty much opened doors for local artists and producers that had previously been locked (and barricaded) shut.
But after a decade plus of puttin’ out hit after hit, you‘d be hard pressed to find an act in the business that hadn’t already worked with him (or wished it had done so.)
In the early to mid-90s Missy “Midemeanor” Elliott and Tim “Timbaland” Mosley said screw the key and just flat out knocked down those doors Riley had propped open. The list of hits that followed is an endless one and the hip-hop world hasn‘t been the same since.
lt has been said that the duo “sees things on other levels, levels we mortals don’t know exist,” by one label exec. Timbaland is universally regarded as an urban-Mozart, the type of individual that only comes along once in a generation.
I had one A&R guy at Atlantic Records say that, “if I had to have a hit track, I mean like I needed the loot to buy me a spleen on the black market…I want Tim doing the track.”
Missy is thought of in the same vein. The NYC crowd, which is the heart & soul of hip-hop, openly refers to her as Puff Mommy. Some less-informed people might consider that an insult, but like it or not, Puffy revolutionized the way the business end of hip-hop is conducted.
No longer is it considered the music of a sub-culture. It is a culture all it’s own.
The last few years have seen Kemspville natives Chad “Chase” Hugo and Pharrell Williams, a.k.a. the Neptunes, spinning hit after hit (after hit). ln the last month alone, one could find three of their tracks sittin’ at or near the top of the urban/r&b charts. Beenie Man and Mya’s “Girls Dem Sugar,” Mystikal‘s runaway club hit “Shake Ya Ass,” and Jay-Z‘s latest effort “l Just Wanna Luv U” all show (as Beenie would say) “Neptune’s make number one tune, yeah!”
The outlandish run by the duo, along with a resume that already included tracks with Noreaga, Mase, Prince, SWV, and Sade, earned them a nod from VIBE magazine this month.
ln that piece, the writer claims that, “the two may have the most diverse resume of any production team in history.”
And now, a new blip has shown up on the local radar. John “Eye-Q” Spruill has already worked with acts like the Coco Bros., Lef Phyld, M.O.P. and Rah Digga but his latest venture may be the one that catapults him to stardom.
“Q” has signed on to be the in-house, resident producer for the area’s newest label, 7 City Records. 7 City, family-owned and operated so to speak, is home to the Boodah Fam, a collection of local hip-hop talent that is overseen by DJ Law and Big B of the Boodah Brothers fame.
Earlier this year Law & B decided to “branch out into the other side of the business”, a move that seemed inevitable. Even though they already boasted a squadof emcees that’ll rip the mic up, Law & B. knew it wouldn’t be a complete team without a master at the mixing board.
“The kid is a genius,” says Law. “He creates driving beats, dramatic tracks. He can create this damn near hypnotizing backdrop for our guys to flex their skills on.”
Big B. takes it even further when he says, “The chemistry he creates with the MC, whether it’s Mic Lord, Lonnie B, 4-Fitty, or Mac (the Menace), is incredible. That’s his job, to take all of those ideas, all of those musical concepts and to sculpt a work of art.”
Spruill, who’ll be attending Purdue University to pursue his PhD in Speech Pathology this spring, seems to be pretty level headed about all of this though. “I’ve been doing this for a while now so I feel pretty comfortable n the business. I am excited about where everything is going but I also know that I’Il get there when I get there.”
The buzz around the industry is that day is a whole lot closer to being sooner than later, but talking to this guy, you’d never know it. But then again, that cool and steady approach is what has garnered him all of this acclaim in the first place.
In the meantime, keep your ears open for some of his work released under the Boodah Fam flag so you can get a taste of what he has to offer.
Though he is the cream of the local crop, it‘s not like my man has the whole industry cornered, however. Some other local talent to look out for is Aaron Lilly of Yeah Mann! Productions and Qadir “Spice” Shakir of Ron Perry Music.
Lilly is set work with the local rap collective Jhunnipuz and Spice is working on his solo joint, along with other projects, on the RP label. Those joints are highly anticipated releases.
We are in the middle of a renaissance on the local hip-hop scene, take a moment to enjoy it people.