Aaron Lacrate and Debonair Samir: Straight From The Gutter
Indeed, Baltimore culture is booming this year. HBO acclaimed series aside, the elements of that club music is finding its way onto hits left and right. Whether you listen to the multi-tracked vocals of Rihanna's "Please Don't Stop The Music," or the Electronic and House-influenced elements of recent singles from Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa or Timbaland, it's there. However, for that authentic slice of what's really good - or shall we say "gutter," HipHopDX caught up with the veteran deejay and producer Debonair Samir and multi-talented partner Aaron Lacrate. Raw is how they give it to you.
After commissioned remixes for the likes of E-40 and Juelz Santana, the b-boys at heart were able to go back to the golden era to remix Young MC's "Know How" and Masta Ace's "Jeep Ass Nigguh" for Delicious Vinyl. With more remixes coming, in addition to two albums, a national tour with Dizzee Rascal, the ever-thriving Milkcrate apparel line, and new artist Verbs, the gutter is opening, and Baltimore is getting the credit that's long been due.
HipHopDX: How far back does your and Debonair Samirs relationship go?
Aaron Lacrate: We started off back in 2005. When I was making the Bmore Gutter Music record, I came to Baltimore, and I was meeting with different producers that I wanted to collaborate on that, and him and I ended up just hitting it off really well, and we made the record Blow. From there, we just got along really, really well and just ended up doing more and more work together.
DX: Samir, what was your background like up until the point of linking with Lacrate?
Debonair Samir: Ive always been a music producer. I was working with people like Trey Songz, Shabba from Making The Band, Dru Hill, a lot of the ground-breaking Baltimore club music, like Samirs Theme. Ive always been producing and deejaying, since I was like 14 years-old.
DX: In terms of producing gutter music, how important is it to have experience deejaying in those clubs?
AL: Producing any music, deejaying is gigantic. I think after youve dissected every record under the sun in your brain, and you own every hit single in Hip Hop since 1980-whatever to the current day, the arrangementthere could be a great bunch of shit on a computer that needs to be arranged into a formattable, playable song. I think deejays know how to do that best.
DS: I still deejay with Aaron and by myself and stuff. I do gigs around the world. Japan, Taiwan, London.
DX: Samir, you grew up in Newark, New Jersey. How did you get hip to what was happening in Baltimore?
DS: My family is from Annapolis, Maryland, but it was too rich for us. Were poor, from the projects of Newark. So we moved to Baltimore.
DX: How old were you when you moved?
DX: How close is gutter music to Baltimore club music?
AL: For us, its the next level. Its obviously based on Baltimore club music. Samir was making club tracks before me, I was doing my own thing before him. Its really the combination of the two of us, together, collaborating on music. Its the next level of club music. Club is great, but as you can see, theres kids all across the world, running rampant, making their own versions of what Bmore is. Theres probably more kids in the Netherlands trying to make Bmore than there are in Baltimore. Nobody wanted to take credit and associate with gutter till it blew up. It became the soundtrack for young people in the clubs around the world. Nobody was renaming club music, we said right from the start, this is an extension of club music. Were pushing the envelope and having people rhyming over club beats. Really, traditionally, thats not what Baltimore club music is.
DX: You mentioned the single Blow. You come from a Hip Hop background. Hip Hop singles right now arent hanging around too long. That was three years ago, and I still hear it in the clubs often. How, or why is that possible?
AL: A kid thats been following Hip Hop for three years, hes feeling everything right now based on the length of his involvement. When youve been involved as long or as in-depth as Ive been which isnt something I really flaunt you inevitably become a leader. If you spend 20 years doing somethingand I didnt realize this until recently. If youre a creative person for 20 years, using the same tools, theres a matter of time before you become a trend-setter of that genre. Hopefully. I feel that thats whats kind of happening with us. We know all the dos and donts. We know what worked and what didnt work from early House. We both came up in Baltimore, which was primarily a dance, ghetto city. You played a lot of different things. Hip Hop was the minority. We all loved it, but you could barely get to play it. We grew up melding these two things. In our left ear is Hip Hop, in our right ear is Chicago House and New York House, UK Rave, Breakbeat, Hip-House. If people are in tune with what [Afrika] Bambaataa and those guys were doing in the early days, playing Funk records, Gospel records, and anything with a hard break in it, thats still the essence of what Hip Hop is. What were doing, whether it be fast, whether it be club, whether it be Baltimore gutter, its still in the evolution of Hip Hop and rap music. Its the believable hybrid of Hip Hop and Dance. We keep that rugged, that Wu-Tang, what everybody loves about Hip Hop, but we do it in an up-tempo, danceable, wild way.
DS: Gutter is so gritty and grimy; its not your typical Dance music. Its not like Techno that sounds so clean and polished. Gutter sounds so unorthodox. It sounds so easy, but its not easy.
DX: Is it essential that the lyrics be dirty too? Looking at a lot of your stuff, its pretty raunchy, and thats fantastic
DS: To be honest, Blow was a three-year-old track. I just stripped it and added that to the vocals. Its dirty drums, old, crackled up records, you know what I mean?
DX: What influenced you to get into club music?
DS: I just used my influences around. Growing up, we had everything: Country, Reggae, Hip Hop, all the influences. The people in Baltimore didnt accept it though. I never knew that it was spreading outside of Baltimore though. Actually, I have a couple of hit songs in Baltimore that spread outwards more than actually inside Baltimore. It was strange. My background was flippin 80s stuff Van Halen, The Manhattans, cartoons, having fun with it.
DX: Are the clubs you were sneaking into as a teenager, or the clubs you were deejaying in as a teenager, are they still surviving in Baltimore?
AL: Theres just one. Paradox. Its really the only one thats left. They still have a strong Friday night, the knucklehead, Bmore, wild, young kid party. Saturday is more on the alternative, gay tip. They used to have a big Thursday party, which was Rave-y. They used to cover all their bases in a weekend. Thats the only spot thats really still standing.
DX: Everybody right now is excited about Wale, being from a close region, near D.C. Do you think the Chesapeake Bay area, including Baltimore is going to truly be next?
AL: I think so. Its happening. The Wale/Ronson connection and the Lacrate/Samir Bmore connection, I think its big. Mark [Ronson] and I are longtime friends and collaborators, I think that alone is big. Mark was responsible for bringing Puffy, Dame Dash and Jay-Z to the Downtown clubs, because Marks [music] always had the model bitches. This wouldnt be the first time that Mark is involved in a catalytic Hip Hop worldwide thing. It would be our first time. If youre in this game, youd better be pushing.
DX: I recently read how Shawty Redd knew he had a hit in Sexual Seduction by demo-ing it in Atlanta clubs. How do you capture the energy of gutter music in the studio when youre producing it?
AL: A lot of that is a combination of Samir being a maniac on production and me sort of fine-tuning, twisting and adding what I think is dope detail to a beat and different vocal combinations. Hes just a funky dude, man. He just bangs out drum tracks.
DS: We collaborate in all facets. I use Reason, and Ive been using it since 2000. Everything youve heard has been made off of Reason.
DX: Youre one of the only people, as a deejay, thats given Young MC his due. Tell me about what Know How means to you, because your putting the original on tapes years ago, helped educate me, let alone the remix
AL: Other than Bust A Move and writing Wild ThingI wish he wouldve been more active. I think hes a great writer, a great lyricist. If anyone captured that early 90s party rap, it was him. On a record like Know How, it was him spinnin showing people how nasty of an emcee he was. It wasnt so much on the Pop tip. I love Bust A Move, but I dont play it. I couldve remixed it, but I decided not to, because if you have knowledge, youre gonna go for the artists dopest record. Lyrically, thats Know How. In the UK, thats a classic. For us, were always looking for the dope, up-tempo, old school, lyrical vibe. It doesnt get anymore than that. That checks off all the boxes. [Masta Ace's] Jeep Ass [Niguh] was another one we used to play as kids. I had the clear vinyl! If you played that in the party, you know the amount of excitement that carried. That was another record we loved. To have the opportunity to flip thoseyou get a lot of remixes that cross your plate, but not so many golden era records that you fuckin loved as a kid. Its still a bit surreal. We just remixed Soul Flower for Delicious Vinyl too, which features all the original Pharcyde verses, but also our artist Verbs and Wale. Its an exciting project.
DS: Its just an honor and privilege to have this opportunity, especially with a label like Delicious Vinyl. I was doing it before, and not getting paid for it. I was just doing it for the love of being from Baltimore. For the actuals to say, Can you recreate this? I said, Sure! [Laughs]
DX: When will you feel your impact?
DS: I feel the impact. Im trying to sign some artists who will truly embrace this vocal people to express this music. If I see somebody reach the Top Ten off of the stuff that were doing, thats the point when [Ill feel it]. I started as a deejay. I started out pleasing people, so Im a people-pleaser. Im different from the average producer. Im not against music. I embrace music. I like see people dance. I want to see it in a broader spectrum, people singing to it like Madonna or Rihanna. Dont Stop The Music incorporates the whole club set.
DX: What else does 2008 hold for you?
AL: Its been a great start to the year. We came in like a bat out of hell. We had The Wire party January 4, the first week of the year in New York. All the actors were there, our artists were there, other artists from Baltimore. We brought Baltimore into a posh, New York City Downtown club. They wouldnt even let Omar in. [Laughs] It made "Page Six" [of The New York Post]. It was fucked up. Thats the sort of thing Im trying to be this catalyst for in New York. It was a great party. Im deejaying for Dizzee Rascal on tour. I went to the Grammys with Ronson and we did a party. I have a monthly party with Q-Tip in New York. Were relocating. Were trying to revive the New York Hip Hop thing, whether it be Futura's and the graffiti dudes, or Rakim and Kid Capri, its anybody that you idolized, getting to do something on a significant level with them.
DS: I'm working on two albums. I'm trying to do a DJ Khaled-type album. I'm really gonna put Baltimore on the map. Then I'm doing another album, the first soulful Hip Hop album. All subject matters is from the soul. Soulful things. Changing the spirit. This is for people who dug The Secret and Law of Attractions. It's gonna be hard, party, dance music, but it's gonna have that message in it.
Hear Verbs' freestyle over gutter, Just Blaze and DJ Premier beats [click here...]