The world’s favourite Ninja kicks the shit out of some classic Nervous Records Hip Hop
Interview : Dan Prince
This April Jaguar Skills is set to release a special one-off project which sees the him move away from his normal genre-defying style and embrace his Hip-Hop roots, as he breathes fresh life into legendary US label, Nervous Records classic Hip-Hop back catalogue…
Mornin’ Mr Skills. Welcome back to DMCWORLD, where in the world are you today?
“Hey Dan, Gungnam – South Korea!”
A pleasure to speak to you again, especially on such a special album as your Nervous Records ‘90’s Hip-Hop Revisited’ compilation swinging our way next month. So let’s kick back to the beginning of this story, how did this Nervous project begin, whose idea was it?
“It was through Nervous Records as they contacted me about the idea. Weirdly, I was really wanting to make a 90’s sounding Hip-Hop thing. It was an amazing and lucky coincidence. Then they got me all the old school 24 track DAT tapes from some of my favorite Hip-Hop tunes of all time! I basically reversed engineered those tunes. Like what the government do with UFO’s…”
LL Cool J and ‘Jack The Ripper’ was the first tune that got you into Hip Hop, proper old skool New York dissing and scratching in the house. What was it about this new sound that captured your imagination?
“It was just RAW. It had balls. It absolutely changed my life when I heard that tune.”
It must have been a godsend to be able to dive into your father’s record collection back then, sift through all that dusty vinyl checking out where these artists had sampled bits for their records…?
“Amazing. I was very lucky. I still dig in the crates. It’s a lost art, I think so it was great working on the Nervous project. There were so many samples that I could have used. There’s maybe over 90 different sampled records on this album and they’re ALL cleared!”
“I stopped liking hip-hop as much when artists stopped sampling.” Discuss.
“Well, sampling, to me, was the SOUND of Hip-Hop. Even went it started, it was basically sampling Disco joints. I know they re-played them, but most early records sound like some lost Chic tune. It was when they started going really deep into the jazz breaks, that was the sound for me. I mean, there’s some great chopped up sample shit out there, it’s just I’m too busy now digging for electronic stuff. But when the keyboard shit started coming out, I lost interest with it. When Kanye came out he sampled some great stuff. To me, his early productions were really inspiring. Really and truly, the Nervous Records Hip-Hop releases, the Black Moon shit, that was the stuff that I loved. The Beatminerz, the producers, they really had a distinct filtered Hip-Hop sound.”
Nervous Records – shit you can see how long they have been around because they have Records in their name, started in 1991 on a house tip, three years later they discovered Funkmaster Flex and signed him before he started spinning on Hot 97. He was/is called the most famous Hip Hop DJ ever…would you agree with that?
“Hummm, maybe? Michael Weiss, the super-cool dude who owns Nervous, told me the story, actually, of how they both met. Michael is such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to music. It was real cool working with him, because I respect his judgment. If he told me my stuff was whack, I’d listen.”
This monumental album began with you being given raw track master tapes of the Black Moon and Smiff N Wesson first albums, the Mad Lion’s EP and a few other Nervous tapes. How many individual track stems are we talking about here, how on earth did you begin this mammoth task – and how long did it take?
“I mean there was like maybe 60 tracks I could mess with. And there are 24 stems to each one. That’s a lot of stems! I wanted the project to be classic Hip-Hop material. Plus there was a great lead time to make the thing. So it took me three months overall. Two months checking everything out and one month to make. But that was me in the studio 24/7 pretty much. I just really wanted to make my versions as timeless as the original ones. So that took a little time.
When researching the album, surely you came across some hidden vocals?
“Yeah, as they were recorded on tapes, they wanted to use the whole thing up. So I found loads of weird little samples and vocals. Out takes and stuff. I actually found an entire KRS-One 64 bar vocal that was never used. I made a whole new track from that. A real boom-bap sounding 90’s New York Hip-Hop beat. It’s fresh!”
Every track is remade, mashed to fuck, re-mixed with extra sound effects in true Jaguar Skills style…how important though applying the same production style and did you use any of the old skool gear?
“Well, I didn’t want the sound of it to be modern, structurally. Sonically, I wanted to improve the fidelity of the tracks, and obviously, I wanted to fuck around with them a bit. But tastefully. The stuff I’ve done, you might not know, if you don’t know the original tracks really well. Pretty much all of the tunes have had the vocals messed around with. And beat-wise, I’ve done a lot. I also messed with the samples and loops a lot more. Re-processing them and shit. I re-programmed the drums on a MPC 2000, just to get the right sound. It was a real labour of love. It’s the music I truly love, and I didn’t want to be the dude who fucks it all up! Haha!”
“I just kinda got bored of hip hop after a while and I found myself listening to drum ‘n’ bass and stuff after a while, more clubby stuff I guess.” The love of hip hop never leaves you, who are the artists today that still gets your head nodding…?
“You know, I really like the energy of the Grime artists. There’s far too many to mention, but I dig their delivery and energy. I mean, as far as US artists go I like all the old school cats. Busta Rhymes, Rakim and those guys. I think Kanye West is very interesting as an artist. I think that Drake is very talented but I’m not too sure about his beats, but technically he’s very good. Kendrick Lamar is fresh too. Action Bronson is dope. MF Doom might still be my favourite of all time, though…”
Aside from the album, you have just started a weekly Capital XTRA show broadcasting every Friday and Saturday in the UK. Talk us through the show…
“It’s me in the mix. Playing the type of stuff you’d hear me play in the club. It’s a very good representation of what I’m about musically at the moment, as far as club music. It’s on every Friday at 8pm on Capital Xtra and 10pm on Saturday on Capital Radio. I absolutely love doing mixes for radio! I feel very lucky.”
The summer is stretching out ahead of you, festivals and foreign shores await. What can we expect from the main man these coming months…?
“I have a great show coming up end of the month at Koko in London. It’s my new residency and I’m super excited about that. I’m doing a lot of festival gigs too. I love the festivals and cannot wait to rock them. I’ve also been in the studio heavily making tunes of my own. Plus I have a young ninja warrior to train, my son, he’s 3….so I’m a busy ninja!”
And finally, what is the next studio venture coming for you…?
“I’ve got a couple of House joints, a few D&B joints, a couple of Trap type things, and some weird-ass 150bpm Calipso Techo shit, which I think I just invented, coming out by the end of the year maybe. I want to make a Jaguar Skills production LP. Kind of like a mix that I would do, but this time with my own music. I think that’s the next move.”
Thank you dude.
“My pleasure ninja!!!!! Hope to hang one day!!!! And yes, that’s the theme to to Fame kicking in, I gotta run!!! So until next time……..HoooOOOOOOO!!!!”
ARTIST – JAGUAR SKILLS TITLE – 90’S HIP-HOP REVISITED LABEL – NERVOUS RECORDS RELEASE DATE – 08.04.13 FORMAT – CD & DIGITAL
Tracklist: 1) KRS-One – Big Up New York (Jaguar Skills Remix) 2) Black Moon – Powaful Impak! (Jaguar Skills “Props” remix) 3) Black Moon – Black Smif-N-Wessun feat. Mad Lion & KRS-One (Jaguar Skills Re-fix) 4) Jaguar Skills – Nervous Radio Interlude feat. Mad Lion, Black Moon, Charlie Brown, Ol Dirty Bastard 5) Mad Lion – Take It Easy feat. Funkmaster Flex, Rayvon, Ricksta Riksta (Jaguar Skills Safe Sex Remix) 6) Polyrhythm Addicts – Big Phat Boom feat. Mad Lion, KRS-One, Smif-N-Wessun (Jaguar Skills Re-Fix) 7) Smif-N-Wessun – Let’s Git It On feat. Mad Lion (Jaguar Skills Re-Fix) 8) Black Moon – Buck Em Down (Jaguar Skills Re-Fix) 9) Funkmaster Flex & The Ghetto Celebs – Safe Sex feat. Mad Lion & Smif-N-Wessun (Jaguar Skills 90’s Club Remix) 10) Jaguar Skills – Nervous Radio Interlude feat. Mad lion, Ol Dirty Bastard, 11) Mad Lion & KRS-One – Double Trouble feat. Broadway, Funkmaster Flex (Jaguar Skills Broadway Remix) 12) Black Moon – U Da Man feat. Mad Lion, Smif-N-Wessun (Jaguar Skills Blunts Remix) 13) Smif-N-Wessun – Let’s Git It On feat. Black Moon & Funkmaster Flex (Jaguar Skills Re-Fix) 14) Smif-N-Wessun – Hellucination feat Mad Lion (Jaguar Skills Stand Strong Remix) 15 Black Moon – How Many Emcee’s feat. Smif-n-Wessun (Jaguar Skills Re-Fix) 16 Smif-N-Wessun – Next Shit (Jaguar Skills Instrumental Mix) 17 Smif-N-Wessun – Stand Strong (Jaguar’s Home Sweet Home In The Doghillee Mix) 18) Black Moon – Murder MC’s feat. Mad Lion (Jaguar Skills Re-Fix) 19) Jaguar Skills – Nervous Radio Interlude feat. Smif-N-Wessun 20) Smif-N-Wessun – Bucktown (Jaguar Skills Sound Bwoy Remix) 21) Black Moon – I Got Cha Open (remix) – (Jaguar Skills Original Remix edit) 22 Black Moon – Shit Iz Real (Buckshot’s New Vocal Version) 23) Smif-N-Wessun – Next Shit feat. Buckshot – (Jaguar Skills How Many Emcee’s remix) 24) Smif-N-Wessun – Sound Bwoy Buriell (Jaguar Skills Bucktown Remix)