The much respected DJ and producer fields Rapnews questions about his musical background, the releases past and present, his residences, label and how he rates the scene.
First of all, please tell the readers who you are and where you're from.
I'm Keith Lawrence. DJ & owner of my record label Muzik-Ed Productions. I'm from Brixton, South London bruv!
How long have been involved in hiphop and who were some early inspirations?
I've been into hiphop since I first heard Man-Parrish's 'Hiphop Be Bop (Don't Stop)' in '84 & the year after I started my DJ career with 'Magic Touch Soul Sound System' from South London at the time. We were playin' tunes like 'Brooklyn's In The House' by Cutmaster DC, 'Can You Feel It' by Original Concept etc. Man, don't know 'bout raving now,trus!
Looking at your bio, it sounds like you've got quite a few trades. What'd you primarily describe yourself as?
I started DJing first so that's what I am first & foremost. To describe me I would say what others have said to me. 'I play for the people!' The same attitude, I have towards my production as well.
Having DJ'd for so many years, what have been some of your personal highlights?
A couple of my DJ highlights are DJing at Stereo MC's after party when their 'Connected' album came out. That was at Diorama, Peto Place. Billy T from Manasseh was DJing before me and I came on and played everything til' the end of the night! Also, DJing in Dublin, Ireland. I had two residencies between '96 & 2000. One was on Friday weekly, the other fortnightly Sundays, so I spent every other weekend over there.
This was before RnB gained mass appeal and promoters from the UK came over and fucked it up by imposing that 'cool n sexy' crap! Before that, I was playing to all kinda people who were up for the music and a good time. I got mad love from peeps there and still do! Bug up Frank Jez, the realest DJ out there now!
What kinda DJ would you say you are, or do you spin sets of all flavours and angles?
I DJ for whatever arena I'm in, so if I'm doing a gig with the Tighten-Up Crew (Mistah Brown, Tim-P & Champion) it'll be Roots, Dub, Rocksteady, Ska, Reggae, early & current Dancehall. Sand Bar Saturdays (Clapham Pk Rd) is the club vibes. Beyonce to Michael Jackson, admittedly nuttin' too deep but a bangin' nite still!
Z-Bar, Brixton on Sundays. They wanna hear the upfront RnB, hiphop, 90's tunes with a bit o' bashment. Hiphop jams, it'd be new, golden-era, Funk, Bash etc. I personally love to do jams where I can play James Brown to Kev Brown to Dennis Brown! With a bit of Broken Beat & soulful House thrown in & everyone's on it! This is the principle of Muzik-Ed! I DJ good black muzik basically!
How long have you been into the production side of things?
I dabbled in production from about '94 & done a few bits here and there with different peeps, but got into it more in 2000 when I bought the MPC 2000 and up to this day I've only read half the manual! The way people have bigged me up on my production style is amazing. Can you imagine if i read the other half? Haha.
Do you feel that being a DJ for so long sets you up with better ears for creating your own material?
Yes it does very much so, but of late due to the formulaeic nature of most tracks, it also shows me where not to go either! The DJ aspect has helped find out what heads are into.
For someone that hasn't come across your beats before, how would you describe your style of sound?
As it says on my Myspace site, my sound encompasses the history, creativity, integrity and positivity of black music before it donned its shiny suit! In simpler terms, it's rhythmic, hypnotic & bangin! Jockey Slut mag' summed it up perfectly in a review for the Mystro joint I done. "Applying an ethereal sheen to the best elements of hiphop tradition…'. What you hear is my ancestors speaking through me. I very much believe this!
What kind of kit are you using in the studio to generate your tunes?
All the beats are done on the MPC. Apart from my record collection, there's nothing else! I go to Drew Horley's Lab studios and any other fine tweaking is done there. His knowledge of the musical as well as the engineering aspects is unquestionable. I've recently acquired the Yamaha QS 300 Keyboard so I'm experimenting with that. Watch out for tunes with a two fingered chord! Hahaha.
Can you give us a run through of some releases you've provided the music for over the years?
I did a track with Sandra Bee (of Sons & Daughters fame, remember that?) for The Principles Of Soul album in '95 which led on to producing a remix for a french rap, Tooleust. I put out the 'Boogie Butt' EP with the management of Powerjam radio (the station I was on at the time) in '96 with Daz-I-Kue, Bugz In The Attic, engineering for me. I did a remix of the late great Junior Delgado's 'Buffalo soldier' track in '98 for V2 records.
I then did the 'Bussin True' EP for Beatoven Records in 2001. This helped me to be taken seriously as a producer. In 2003 I launched the Muzik Ed imprint with the AA sided single 'Step By Step / Eveywhere' by Mystro. The next single was the Shonoluv / Muzik-ED Special by Seanie-T, Jeff3 & Symmetric later that year. I then released the 'Goin' True' EP in 2005.
The latest release is 'Keith Lawrence Presents Soundz Of Muzik ED… The Story So Far'. A compilation CD of the work I've done to date. It includes the remixes of the Blacknificent 7 (Seanie T's project & mi bredrin still!), DJ Mentat's 'Rugged Wid It' & Dom G. I've also executively produced as well as produced 6 tracks for the new Travis Blaque album for German record label Unique, released July 17th 2006.
I imagine you've had the chance to work with quite a few heavy rappers. What artists are at the top of your wish list of collabs?
I've approached a few already but who have yet to return my call so if your'e one o' dem reading this now, wha gwaan blood! I'd love to work with Rakim or KRS 1. That would be the boom for real! Closer to home, anyone who's saying something constructive or has that unique vibe / style about them. IE; Seanie-T, Ty, Klashnekoff, Englishkid, Pesci etc.
How do you feel the music production of UK hiphop has developed over the past few years and what would you say of its quality right now?
From the foetus UK hiphop was in the the late 80's to what it is now, it has grown into being unique in personality, uncompromising in its artform and has a voice which demands to be heard and continues to grow. The quality is of a high standard in general, but you know just like our American cousins, we have 'so called' artists / producers who wanna put on the shiny suit or gangsta apparell & believe that's hiphop and therefore undermine the individuality of hiphop in the UK.
Who are some of the UK producers that you most admire at the minute and what is it you like about their output?
Producers who have pricked my ears have been the likes of Harry Love, Joe Buddah, Apa-Tight from up north, Skitz, Urban Monk, Drew Horley, Jehst. They all keep the hiphop elements alive. There's other's as I'm seeing on myspace too. Shouts to Efeks & Steady especially. We gwine link soon!
Having worked in radio, how relevant do you feel the medium is now that technology is really starting to change the landscape of the music industry?
Like it or not, technology is making itself an integral part of how we listen to music today so it's progression into radio & the music industry is inevitable.
The plus side's that music is made more accessible via the net, hence the advent of more internet stations cropping up. Pirates on FM can now have the chance of going worldwide. The down side is the closures & mergers of record companies / departments / labels simply because the people who used to go to record shops for their tunes can now go online and get them for a fraction of the price, if not for free. Something I've seen for myself having worked in various specialist shops for over 15 years. Therefore, the revenue record companies would get is severely affected. More importantly they mail you out mp3's instead of vinyl which pisses me off 'cause my computer's got aids right now! Haha.
Tell us about about why you set up Muzik Ed and what's the objectives behind the label?
Muzik-ed was born out of frustration & confidence. Frustration due to empty promises, bum deals & being jerked around by people when I was trying to get on. Confidence from when I helped to finance & co-ordinate the 'Bussin' True' EP project for Beatoven Records. I felt like 'let me do this for myself'.
The objective for the label is, put out some damn good music of all genres under the black music banner. It's a one man operation so far, as far as the production is concerned, but as I get a stronger foothold in this game it'll be a platform for new artists and producers alike. I'm not really on the nasal sounding girly RnB but never say never right?
What forthcoming projects have you got in the works and when can we expect to hear the results?
The latest project as I mentioned earlier is the 'Soundz Of Muzik-ed' compilation CD out in the shops courtesy of Boombox & Cargo Distribution. The Travis Blaque album out July 17th, and I've a vibe to put out an instrumental EP infusing the reggae & hiphop elements which you should know by now are my biggest influences. I'm also collatting tracks for an album but don't ask me when that's out. I'm not gonna rush it. It'll be as long as it takes!
How can people keep up to date with what you're doing and what are a couple of live dates we can sketch into the calender?
I have 2 DJ residencies in South London. Sand Bar, Saturdays. A members bar situated on Clapham Park Rd, round the corner from White House. Party vibes for a mixed friendly crowd. RnB, Hiphop, Club Classics. For G-List / Membership, phone 0207 622 3022. Fiver before 11pm, £8 after. 10-3am.
The other is 'Feelin' It' at the Z-Bar, 30 Acre Lane, Brixton SW2, Sundays. 8-12 midnight. Admission free! Upfront RnB, Hiphop, 90's classics with a dash of bash! The realest vibes in South London on a Sunday night! As Rodney P said on 'Style & Fashion', Don't let no pussyhole deceive you blood!" It's happenin' in sout'!
Have you got any shout out's or plugs you'd like to throw out there?
I'd like to big up everyone who has supported myself & Muzik-ed, DJs, artists and more importantly the person who's put their hand in their pocket & bought the product. Thank you.