Paul Oakenfold is no stranger to the world of Hip-Hop. His relationsip with the pioneering sound dates all the way back to the 1980s where as Head of A&R for Profile and Champion Records, he was signing and looking after many of the superstars of the scene. The latest chapter of his love with the genre comes in the form of new single ‘What’s Your Love Like’ featuring Grammy Award-winning rapper/actress Eve – a track fresh from his hugely anticipated album ‘Shine On’. DMCWORLD and our whistle posse check in with the main man for another huge world exclusive…
Hey Paul, a huge welcome back to DMCWORLD. Where are you in this crazy world today?
I’m currently in Hollywood, Los Angeles, where I reside.
What is the best piece of new music you have heard this week?
I’ve been watching the new Crown series, season 4 and the music is superb.
So an exciting time right now for you thanks to the release of your new single ‘What’s Your Love Like’ featuring vocals from the legendary rapper Eve. Your journey into the world of hip hop though I am guessing began around 1981 when you moved to New York, the sound was taking over the planet back then. What are your memories of this time, hip hop booming out from ghetto blasters on every block….
My early memories of hip hop are really good. I signed Will Smith under the alias Fresh Prince. I worked alongside Salt N Pepa and gave them their big hit in the UK. Then I went on to manage Great Britain’s number 1 breakdancing outfit where we came third in the world. I also managed Mastermind which is a DJ unit that was known as the best in the world. And I ended up head of A&R for Profile Records Europe where I worked alongside Run DMC, Rob Base. Then I was working for Def Jam Recordings where I was promoting Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and LL Cool J.
Whilst in New York you and Ian Paul infamously interviewed Bob Marley when pretending to be NME journalists, I recall one of your questions was ‘what type of music do you make?’. How on top was that moment?
Yeah, Ian interviewed Bob Marley and the questions he asked were very basic, which I found very embarrassing at the time. This will be a moment that will live with me for the rest of my life.
What was it about this new sound that you fell in love with at the start of that incredible decade?
Growing up in England, new music is always very accessible. So I love the whole idea of different collaborations with different genres.
As you just mentioned, returning to London you took up the role of A&R Manager at Champion Records signing Salt-n-Pepa and Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. This was before Acid House had engulfed the dancefloor. What were these guys like to work with back then?
Yeah, I got to know a lot of these artists personally because one of my main roles was taking them to the clubs. It was a fun time and I never really realized how big all of these artists would become. These are now iconic acts.
What’s the story regarding the dodgy wristbands and The Beastie Boys?
We held a showcase for the Beastie Boys in London and we deliberately wanted to build the hype up. So we gave the press the wrong color wrist bands so none of them could come in. Boy, were they pissed, but they sure wrote about it.
This was also the time when DMC began the World DJ Championships, an event that over the years has seen World Champions such as Craze, Roc-Raida, A-trak and C2C emerge. Did you ever try your hand the whole turntablist avenue, or was the whole scratching thing simply not for you?
I was very instrumental in the early days of battling DJs, Wiz Kid, DJ Cheese, Afrika Islam, Chuck Chill Out. I even did a track with Grandmaster Flash. And even though I can scratch, I never really wanted to enter any of these battles.
A famous quote from you: “Before Ibiza I was playing LL Cool J and Run DMC but when we came back I was playing acid house and Cyndi Lauper. We had baggy trousers and were dancing like maniacs and everyone was like, ‘What the fuck are you lot doing?’. It’s now 2020 – when was the last time you played LL Cool J, Run DMC or Cyndi Lauper in a set?!?
Good question. I still love LL Cool J and Run DMC, but it’s really hard to play in a trance set.
Your favourite 3 Hip Hop artists of all time?
Run DMC, Public Enemy and NWA.
And finally, ‘What’s Your Love Like’ – please tell us the history and sound of the track…
I was a fan of Eve’s. We worked on this awhile back now. It also features an up and coming artist Baby E, that I recommend people to check out. I always worked on hip hop and on my last two albums I had Ice Cube and Pharrell Williams. And on this album I’ve also got Azealia Banks and Zach Salter.
Paul Oakenfold teams up with rap superstar Eve and Baby E for “What’s Your Love Like”. Out now on Perfecto Records.