WHO DOESN’T LOVE DILLA
Show me a die-hard Hip Hop fan that doesn’t love Dilla! Personally – and this might be a factor of age – I think that you really be a true head without the love for this man’s immense legacy. Apart from his contribution to what probably was the biggest paradigm shift in the art of sampling, what Dilla did was basically humanise and loosen up the drum machine. And tell me that this didn’t change machine-made music forever!
On that note, I would like to introduce you to Aphrotek (aka Eliyah Reichen), a Swiss Jazz musician, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. After you hear Just A Light, his latest single, which features NYC wordsmith Phase One, you’ll know exactly why I had to invoke the spirit of Dilla right here. And if his forthcoming record entitled Stories, which is set to drop in May, is going to continue in this spirit – it’s gonna be one beast of a release! Psssst! A rumour has it that Meshell Ndegeocello is on it!
We caught up with Aphrotek and Phase One for a quick chat below.
Do you guys still remember when you first heard your first Dilla joint? Tell me about that moment..
Aphrotek : Yeah man, it was Welcome to Detroit. I was in my first rehearsal space, still a kid at high school. I was listening to it on and on – playing drums or keys to it, I wanted to know that physical feel of his music, get into it and learn. Phase One : First time I heard a Dilla produced song was on the emcee “Mad Skillz” debut album. He had two songs on that album and they were my favorite without me knowing he indeed produced them. By the time I was a full fledged fan, Mad Skillz told that story and it blew my mind. That was also Dilla’s first placement in the industry, so it all made 100% sense to me then. From Mad Skillz album it all became a avalanche of love for his craftsmanship from there...
And what’s your all time favourite Dilla jam?
Aphrotek : The Fan-tas-tic interludes on the Fantastic Vol.1, without a doubt.. and you Phase?
Phase One : There’s too many favorites from Dilla for me to choose. But one of them off the top is definitely from his unreleased Beat cds that were leaked all over the Internet, where he sampled “Human Nature” from Michael Jackson, and made his own twist of the song.
I gotta say that I’m pretty damn sure that he would approve of this joint right here! How did you guys meet, anyway, and how did it come to the session? It’s not like you guys are next door neighbours, right?
Aphrotek : Almost neighbours! Its’ a few hours of a commute and I'm in NYC.. No, I was thinking about this project for some time and I knew the feel and the sound that I wanted, and I heard Phase at the Lesson with his awesome band and I knew right away that I wanted to collaborate with him. So, I contacted him later when the project was taking shape, sent him a few instrumentals and we eventually both thought that this joint would be just dope with him on it, right?
Phase One : Yes, that’s pretty much how we came together to work on this project.
Are you guys always this positive?
Phase One : Far as the positivity in the lyrics, when I write, it’s to what the soundscape provides me. So, for what Aphrotek provided, I just spoke what came to me naturally. Positivity just as negativity is important in all aspects because we can’t exist without neither. So, if it’s negative, but true to the artist or myself, it is just that. Something could be negative but also relative. Wouldn’t that be important if you “connect” to it for whatever the reason??? It’s all about what connects to the ear and what a person is going through and how what ever they’re ingesting sonically will help or deepen them in that rabbit hole. Decisions, decisions, decisions!!! (Phase Laughs)
Do you think that we’ll ever live through something like the SoulAquarian era again?
Aphrotek : There's a need for that in people's hearts I think. We need more music that's just about love and positive vibrations, refreshing feelings and hope. The world has changed a lot, since then, and the music business spun out of control, so to be able to afford to work with a big group of talented musicians under perfect conditions is very difficult. Everybody is busy doing a million things and building their own careers, but thats the way it is now.. Maybe it might change? Dunno. It’s all waves and cycles.. And that was also a time when this vibration they had was in the air, the music needed what they came up with, as much as Bird was bringing something the music needed in the 40s to continue existing and evolving.
Phase One : If I could jump in the Soulquarian question, I don’t think we’ll live through another vibe like that because of the fact that era happened already. Even in Hollywood when the remakes happened they don’t always live up to the original and I use that as an example even tho if a new crew came to the game they wouldn’t necessarily be remaking the old. The chemistry and organics between all those artists is a one of one.
I didn’t mean that we should make an analogue of the era because with things of the soul it just doesn’t work like that. You can never recapture any of these iconic eras: be it 70s Punk or 60s Jazz… But what I meant was if there is a need for more soulful music of that sort, and if you guys could imagine a new movement crystallising around that type of feeling and, of course, expressing it with modern nuances and in a modern musical language…
Aphrotek : We definitely shouldn't try to re-do the same thing.. But maybe we should aim for some of that warmth..
Do you think the kids would still get it? I mean, I thought that for a minute Kendrick was gonna go there, full on, and then his last record was almost all Trap productions.. Aphrotek : ...I guess the music will speak to those that have their hearts open for it, some might not get it but that's ok. I know there's people that will like to push the volume and bathe in this sound. and...
Phase One : …and Kendrick is a special kind of animal that could’ve almost not made it, if he made different decisions. In that case, imagine all of the other artists who were just as strong but never had the opportunity to shine their light. Kendrick studies the culture seriously, he knows what he is doing and he is very calculated. Each project is different from the last. This last album, yes, it’s more trappy, but T.P.A.B. was a time piece (a masterpiece at that) but it went over a lot of heads. The pill was too big to swallow for the common folks. Personally, I ate that record up because it’s where my mind was at. His last album was still a great album but I think he was showing the world he can do what everybody else does, but with his twist! And he is still drastically different from the rest. So, sonically he delivered candy, but the messages were pure protein.
Where is Hip Hop these days, anyway? Mumble Rap, anybody?
Phase One : Where the state of the music is today is up to the kind of listener it has. We are in times where you can be very successful without being on the radio or at the forefront of the industry. Yes, we have what many call “mumble rap”, but 9 times out of 10, if you call it that, it could show what era musically you are from. The term isn’t necessarily a positive one. The kids who are 14/15-25 years of age, that style of music is for them, and maybe not for the elder statesmen. Every generation will have what they rock to and we all have to respect each other’s space. The beauty of today’s time is that the internet gives us a platform to literally listen to “WHATEVER” tickles our fancy and gives us the option to find new music that could spark different kinds of interests. So, it’s probably better than we think but it’s all about perspective. If you are indeed a fan of Hip Hop, you will always find it. Whether it’s classic or brand new. If you get lazy or slow down your listening you won’t find it and may screw yourself out of some good music because there are more artists than ever today.
In closing, can we expect any more joints from the two of you? An EP or a full record, maybe?
Aphrotek : Everything's open for now, man! First, I'll work on getting my debut album out. Once I’m free from it, and let it go, I'll be able to re-invent myself and start planning new things. One thing is for sure, brother Phase is absolutely amazing and inspiring to work with. I'd definitely do more with you brother!!
Phase One : Likewise, regarding working in the future....