Sailing mad voyages of hip-hop piracy among a sea of less able producers, Waajeed and Platinum Pied Pipers are taking the hip-hop world like bandits. The pirate theme is well deserved: New York’s legendary Tiombe Lockhart has called Waajeed “Pirate King” and “the swashbuckler of funk.” The New York producer’s been plundering and pillaging hip-hop as we know it to arrive at pure, unprecedented treasure.
Waajeed is something of an ingénue in the hip-hop world. He only began producing in 2000, but his beats for Platinum Pied Pipers have the ring of classic producers such as Pete Rock. Hailed as an instant classic sound by Flavorpill, The Platinum Pied Pipers’ Triple P garnered instant fanfare—a rare feat for a fledgling release on Waajeed’s underground label, Bling 47. Waajeed’s history with music is long, though: he began DJing at just 14, mining his parent’s massive vinyl collection for new gold. He met Jay Dee (J. Dilla, RIP) in Detroit around the same time, and was privy to the burgeoning hip-hop scene of the ‘80s. He won a scholarship to art school for painting, but quit school to tour through Europe as a DJ for Slum Village. Upon his return to the United States, he decided to put down his brushes for another set of tools—production equipment.
Platinum Pied Pipers’ Triple P is Waajeed and Saadiq, and boasts cameo appearances by Jay Dee, MC Ta-Raach, UK-based Spacek and SA-RA Creative Partners. It’s pure buried treasure that’s been unearthed by the group’s new approach to soul. Waajeed and I caught up to discuss the radness of the raw, how a painting is like a track, and what really put the funky in Funkadelic.
Tell me about how you guys met. You’re both from Detroit, right?
Yeah, we met sixteen, maybe seventeen years ago. At the time, we had just entered high school, and I was getting into music. There was this kid in my art class who was like, “my brother’s a producer, and he’s really talented. You should come by and grab some beats from him.” The next day he brought me his cassette tape. We made some beats together… with only turntables, a little drum machine, and cassette tapes.
You had a pretty spare setup there. But sometimes that can be for the best. The less software and fancy equipment used, the better.
So what about Detroit? You are originally from there, but now live in New York. You have a big following in New York, but in an interview I read with you, you were saying a Detroit record shop only ordered eight of your records, and you sold 125 copies at one show in New York. What’s up with Detroit?
I think it’s… I don’t know. I think the grass is always greener on the other side. Wherever you’re not from, that’s where motherfuckers get into you. Like if I was born in New York, people here wouldn’t give a fuck about me. Yeah, that Detroit thing… in interviews I’m always get asked, ‘explain your Detroit sound. You have a Detroit sound, Detroit this, Detroit that.’ It really pisses me off.
I think people equate you with Detroit because you have a raw sound. I don’t think you sound ‘Detroit’ in any way. I think people tend to pigeonhole, which sucks. It’s a really unchallenged way of looking at music.
It’s the easiest way. It sums it up. To name a sound for a city is silly. And if I had a ‘Detroit’ sound, maybe there’d be more records of mine for sale there… the ‘Detroit’ sound is just ghetto tech.
Let’s talk about your paintings. Is there somewhere online where you sell your stuff?
Not really. I wish there was more time in the day.
I’m sure you’re busy DJing, producing, owning a record label, getting married…
The DJ thing is crazy. I’ve been DJing more than I’ve been producing lately. There’s so much to do and so little time. I wish I had more time to paint, or even draw. I miss it, but making a track is, to some degree, the same thing. With painting, you lay a foundation, and build on it. Add a few things and take a few things away. It’s the same process.
Yeah, it’s just a layering of textures to arrive at overall meaning and balance. Production is all about balance, too.
I agree. That’s part of what’s wrong with popular music these days, especially hip-hop. Because it’s so keyboard-based and doesn’t have any texture to it… every piece of art has to have some sort of texture to it in order to gel. I was just in Dubai, and got back a couple days ago. The whole scene was fresh, but there was no texture to it. That’s part of why I don’t like lots of hip-hop. There’s no texture to it.
I’m always pissed that these silly rappers are so successful. I don’t understand that at all. Lots of mass-popular hip-hop doesn’t say anything, besides ‘booty is great.’
I know. It’s like, what is anyone going to take away from this situation, besides seeing lots of T and A all damn day.
So let’s talk about your history a little bit. Let me get this straight—you got a scholarship for art school, and then quit to go on tour. After your return, you dropped painting and started making beats. Right?
Yeah, I was so into the music, I had to devote my time. I had always been involved with music, and DJing…
How old were you when you started DJing?
I was about 14. I started with my parent’s record collection—they were really into music in the ‘70s, and big party freaks. They had tons and tons of vinyl.
What kind of music were they into?
My dad was into jazz, and heavily into funk… Funkadelic and all sorts of stuff. I really didn’t get Funkadelic until the last ten years…
It’s kind of an acquired taste.
Yeah. You really have to understand what the fuck they’re talking about to even care. So I inherited my parent’s record collection. I have so many… right now I’m trying to alphabetize them. It’s hard to keep track of all this music.
I’ve read in articles before about how production came pretty easily to you, because it’s a form of expression, kind of like painting. You learn to operate whatever vehicle of expression, and the rest comes easily. Do you agree?
Absolutely. Music gives you another approach. I was hanging out with DJ Spinna a couple days ago, and he’s one of these record, record, record guys. Like he will know the name, producer, cover art…
The label, what year it came out, what pressing it is…
Yeah. Aw, man, he’s one of these record genius guys. He was explaining that your ear is so unique to you. Everyone hears a record differently… I hear a record in a completely different way than anyone else. That’s your benefit; you can approach it differently; chop it up, think about music in a nontraditional way because of being trained as an artist.
That’s the special thing about it… it’s a unique experience. Everyone hears music differently, and the way you create beats is only yours, because only you can hear music that way, and have that particular thing to say.
Yeah. Everyone who’s a great producer has preserved an experience… they’re bringing something unique.
Check Waajeed at Bling 47.
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